Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Intellectual Integrity and Dealing with Russia

The hysteria surrounding events in Salisbury - the attempted murder of two Russians and the collateral near manslaughter of a policeman, using a deadly nerve agent - reached epidemic proportions last weekend. What we knew for certain was that three people were close to death at one time (two still critical at the time of writing), that one of them was connected to the murky world of post-Cold War intelligence and that a tool not available to the ordinary murderer - not the mere deadly cyanide of an Agatha Christie novel - had been used.

There is no reason to cast aspersions on character of the main victim. As we will see, we simply do not know very much at all. In fact, as of today, he is not dead (and we hope he recovers) but critically ill alongside his daughter and this alone makes the Prime Minister's immediate shooting from the hip to point the finger at the Kremlin a little odd. Critically ill not only does not mean dead but it means the possibility of sufficient recovery to be able to give evidence against perpetrators - so why not wait a little longer?

It was, of course, reasonable to believe that it was highly likely (though not certain) that Russians were involved as perpetrators as much as victims but it was perhaps an enormous step too far to say with such certainty - as the Prime Minister and her Government did - that it was 'highly likely' that the Russian Government, the Kremlin no less, ordered the 'hit'. It was even more challenging for our Foreign Secretary to claim that President Putin was 'overwhelmingly likely' to have done so personally. What was the evidence for this? In the end, the Government was asking us to trust it and that too is very challenging as Jeremy Corbyn implied.

Early polling followed the usual trajectory in these cases (much like Iraq). Things started with a surge of support for the Government on limited information and instinctive trust for authority. Then the doubts started to set in. Lack of data raised awareness of the implications, the partisan agenda and the lack of a solid intellectual basis for the extravagance of the claims. People started to remember other cases where they were led down the garden path. This questioning started at the margins and then developed quickly amongst the more intelligent members of the establishment, those who place intellectual integrity ahead of tribal solidarity and who care about the evidential basis for allegations. 

The circle of questioning may expand but the mass tends to accept authority until it becomes clear that a policy is costly, ill-thought out and counter-productive. Eventually people in general may lose interest but the circle of criticism expands until some f**k-up or new data flips the population over to the other side of the game. Why go through this cycle of belief and distrust when a little delay might bring more certainty. This is what I am interested in here.

In this case, around a third of the population soon became thoroughly cynical about the Government's claims or were prepared to back Corbyn and his doubts - or simply had sufficient knowledge or intellectual integrity to ask their own questions. All that is sufficient to block any seriously radical act being contemplated by the Government - which helps to explain the rather weak response to such a 'highly likely' event: a few diplomats get thrown out which is matched by an exact number of ours thrown out by the Russians ... and then nothing! Perhaps as the evidence comes in we will see more considered actions but the whole thing looks like a hissy-fit instead of mature policy-making.

Does 'Highly Likely' Really Mean "We Don't Know?"

The 'highly likely' claim of Prime Minister seems to have been based on little more than that the nerve agent allegedly originated in Russia and not yet on direct evidence that the Russian Government was behind the crime. Again, why not wait a little for the recovery of the victims. The assumption is that a) the nerve agent could not be reproduced elsewhere and b) that the Russian Government is in total control of any stockpile. Sloppy thinking here. It was, of course, reported reasonably enough that "British officials had identified the substance as being part of the Novichok group of nerve agents which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s"

But think about this for a moment. This is very old stockpile and 'part of'' suggests 'reproducibility' rather than a decisive identification with one single known agent that can be traced to a single known source. The criminals (for that is what they are, whether State-directed or not) have not used state of the art material. The assassination was clearly incompetent and not entirely professional. There are other agents for assassination tools to hand than left-over Soviet era nerve agent. 

If it is old Soviet stock pile, we know that a lot of such material fell into some dubious hands in the early 1990s before some rough sort of order was restored, that stock piles might have been in territory now inhabited by other States and that the early 1990s saw a Russia where everything had a price and where such material might be regarded as somebody's pension. Russian sources themselves say reasonably enough that if they want to kill someone, they have means more effective than this. Not a nice thought but plausible enough.

May would have done much better to say to the Russians that the evidence suggests that the Russian Government needs to explain how an old stockpiled Soviet nerve agent has been let loose on the world and then request British police access to Russian resources to uncover and bring to justice the perpetrators. As we say, it might have done better as well to give some time for the two main victims to recover or have a full murder investigation on their hands. But, no, it had to be confrontational and unsubtle in a relationship with a sensitive nuclear power where a final quarrel might result in the immolation of millions on both sides. .

It is certainly possible that a villainous Putin knew of and countenanced such an act even though it looks distinctly amateurish in conception. Yet this investigation had scarcely got under way before the accusations were made. Although the evidence was not available to make any claim stick in public (except on the basis of 'trust me'), by asserting Russian complicity with ultimatums and finger-pointing all possible attempts at dialogue to hear what the Russians had to say and gather further evidence was lost. Surely a more mature approach would have been to request Russian co-operation in the investigation and make your accusations when all avenues had been exhausted.

Needless to say, "Russia’s foreign ministry hit back immediately, saying May’s comments were a“circus show” and part of a political information campaign against Russia." Well, they were, regrettably probably right. The US had to posture in turn so that we then had three sets of idiots posturing at the expense of global peace. NATO had to jump in, of course, in any case nobody noticed it. The Europeans reluctantly complied with the demands of Western solidarity in a rather good statement that ambiguously took 'extremely seriously' the UK Government's intelligence assessment. I think we take it 'extremely seriously' too. 

Perhaps we are truly ruled by cynics, as are the Americans, Europeans and Russians. The Russians could just as easily have said that they were horrified by the incident, were disturbed at the presence of the nerve agent and would offer joint facilities to establish who was responsible and bring them to justice. They are no more to be trusted than the West but this does not mean they are guilty - yet!

What Is Going On?

This is really about nation states saying to their own peoples - 'trust me, I am your ruler" - and, of course, in all these countries there will be people, naive people, who take things on trust and assertion just as there will be conspiracy loons who decide that it was all down to the Jews. 

On Monday, May said the latest poisoning [actually the poisoning of Litvinenko is not proven as a state-sanctioned act either although the Russian Government appears to have done little to permit proper investigation and is also somewhere on the 'possible through highly likely' continuum] took place“against a backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression”.

The attempted murder of a rogue agent in an English country town is suddenly to be linked not even to some mindless bit of institutional revenge against a man of limited or no importance but to some grand strategy of Russian expansion (never mind that it is NATO and the EU that have expanded continuously against the Russia since the fall of the Soviet Empire). 

These nasty little attempted murders by persons unknown soon became expanded into a grand narrative involving Syria and chemical weapons, Crimea and alleged human rights violations in Russia itself and very quickly too! This seemed to be about strengthening NATO and screwing over the idea of a European Army as much as it was about saving the good burghers of Salisbury from mass death by poisoning.

What was worth listening to carefully was the carefully constructed narrative of the expert being wheeled on to the BBC who has a double-barrelled name and a military style in leisure wear. It was flawed intellectually from beginning to end, based on not asking questions but telling a story and it ended with ... chemical weapons in Syria and Russia as a potential existential threat. 

Chemical Weapons

The fair point of the Government was that this was the first use of a nerve agent on the soil of Western democracy since the 1970s and that in itself is deadly serious, especially in the context of the threat of terrorism and the probable return of Islamist warriors from a country, Syria, where chemical weapons are part of the stockpiles of many villains.  

Yet this was not stated so clearly at first - all eyes were directed at Russia which is actually aiding the anti-Islamist forces and one cannot but believe that the storm was as much directed at warning the Russian-backed Syrian Government not to use all possible means to end its vicious civil war as it was to draw attention to the weaponry itself. 

Perhaps Russia is being warned that a terrorist act using chemical weapons in the UK will somehow be linked with them in the public mind so they had better police things at their end - who knows what goes on in the mind of Government strategists? 

Perhaps this is reasonable but, if so, it would tell us something about just how out-of-control our Government may be in handling the dire consequences of its own dabblings in the region under Prime Minister Blair. A debate on this would not be welcome. 

Perhaps horror at chemical weapons use becomes the 'casus belli' for getting Parliamentary approval for deeper British operations in Syria to please President Trump's Pentagon where enough Blairites are likely to back the Government against thinking High Tories to deliver yet another damnable intervention that leads nowhere but back to our small towns and cities.

But let us not go down the rabbit hole of political conspiracy theory ...

Behind The Grand Narrative
 
Behind any 'grand narrative', more short term prosaic concerns can be discerned. The amount of political and police resource thrown at the 'solving' of these attempted murders looked ridiculous when compared to the inaction of media, political class and police in dealing with the equally and most possibly more heinous crimes of Asian grooming gangs in towns like Telford. 

Yes, this needed to be investigated and with full resources because of the chemical weapons aspect but troops on the streets and irate speeches by leading politicians were not to be found in the case of the Asian grooming gangs and urban organised crime which are probably far more of a threat to most ordinary Britons even than 'terrorism'. But it is terrorist acts that result in the fall of Governments, not the sustained rape of vulnerable young women.

This was the attempted murder of one of their own under state protection - although this level of concern clearly did not apply to the poor girls allegedly under state protection in the care homes of the North! The State chooses what to care about and its priorities remains the same as it did in the days of Edward III -  the expansion of the Realm and the retention of power rather than the people within that Realm and their day-to-day welfare. It was why we chose to invest in nuclear weapons rather than national resilience in the 1950s and nothing has changed.

Regardless of 'who actually did it' (I say again that it remains possible that this was an act ordered by the Kremlin so don't accuse me of not recognising that possibility) , the exploitation of the incident to build a cohesive NATO narrative, among a population quietly questioning why we bother with such things as Trident in an age of austerity, is the most striking aspect of this 'spin'. 

This was a play, We were the audience, The actors were in place. All that was needed was the willing suspension of disbelief.  But something was very wrong with this story. As someone in the 'narrative game' I could see the joins and the leaps and tropes because that is my trade even if most people could not.  The sheer desperation of it all suggested a very frightened and insecure elite - frightened of things other than a nerve agent in Salisbury.

Of course, we all knew what was going on - it was political. It was a chance for the Prime Minister to play a card, well used as a technique since the Zinoviev Letter, to bind her own Party together against common enemies, distract the population from a Brexit which was reaching its rather embarrassing point of final sell-out negotiations and dish the Leader of the Opposition by associating him with a dimly recalled 'Red Menace' simply because he asked some pertinent questions about the basis for the Prime Minister's claims. 

The Deeper Level

Yet, at a deeper level, another agenda was in play. There is a brutal struggle going on for control of the security of Europe - that is, which system will stand against invaders from the East or the South? Will it be the Anglo-Saxon broad-based NATO or a Franco-German European Army that might threaten the UK one day more than it may threaten Moscow? Security is the Prime Minister's personal obsession. Defence of the Realm is certainly far more important than the Welfare of the People to a Tory tied to the interest of the Crown.

The targeting of Russia as villain was a golden opportunity to bind the tabloids and Parliament, which both purport to represent the people, around a forward defence of NATO's existential justification for itself - the demonic Russian East.

So, what we had here was a whole concatenation of interests and fears - the Russian bear, loss of power, terrorism in a Syrian context, the US alliance, Brexit and so much more - creating a general need to let rip and fix all attention on this one event in one place at one time and direct attention away from the Government and (bluntly) its lack of intelligence on the threat and towards an enemy and a threat, Russia, that could be easily understood by the editors and country Tories.

But what was the truth of the matter? What is actually likely, as opposed to what is politically convenient to be regarded as 'highly likely' regardless of the evidence actually presented to the people, was not under discussion. 

For, be in no doubt, this was a crime on British soil and a crime, moreover, that appears to have offered some threat to other ordinary citizens and which seems more than coincidental with a number of other killings of prominent Russians whose connections were somewhat rum to say the least (or at least compared to the average British subject to the Crown). The matter certainly deserved serious investigation alongside such crimes as those in Telford and Rotherham regardless even of the nerve agent aspects of the case. The police seem to be making little progress in cases to date and need a breakthrough.

But an analysis that pointed to the chaotic state of post-Soviet Russian politics was far less convenient than one that directed the public to the contribution of the West to that chaotic state or which might point to other actors than the Kremlin itself being responsible for crimes because of that state of chaos. A simple story was required. May referred dismissively to Russia being a mafia state rather than as a state in formation out of anarchic conditions created by the West with some deliberation a quarter of a century ago (I was there and I saw it).

The Chaotics of Russia

The bottom line here is that, while jumping to conclusions derived from ignorance, most of the media simply do not understand the chaotics of Russian governance. There is a history to this and journalists are not good at history. 

History is a serious problem for journalists. It requires them to drop simple narratives (their beloved half-truths they call 'stories') and deal with the real world of complex relationships between real facts while analysing the gaps in the record from experience. Journalism is not truth, it is literature. The news is written by people who have never done a deal, run a campaign or made a difficult executive decision. The political class' skill lies in manipulating data to provide the narratives (or 'stories) to these inexperienced people that can serve their purposes.

Yes, it is possible that Putin personally ordered an assassination but very unlikely. The fate of a minor traitor really is not top of mind for him in the middle of an election campaign. running a country of vast extent with a population nearly three times that of the UK which is still coping with the economic fall-out of the collapse of its empire and dealing with far more important issues such as the dispute with Ukraine, the war in Syria, Islamic terrorism, relations with President Trump, national defence and an economy which is far from out of the query basket. 

Our friend Valery Morozov was almost certainly correct on Channel 4 News (and this was accepted by the spokesperson for the chemical weapons establishment in that same segment) that Putin really has no interest in a minor intelligence figure from the past.

Yes, it is certainly possible that an arm of the Russian security apparat is engaged in a political war of its own involving violence. In such a case Putin can be blamed for not being in control of his own system and May may be right to condemn this - when she knows that this is so and on those terms rather than Boris' assertion of personal culpability.

This is more likely and would be justifiable cause for complaint but then the complaint should be cast in just those terms. We should be able to show Russian state complicity and Kremlin failure to control its own security operations and demand with evidence that Putin explain himself (although, I suppose, we might have to explain extraordinary rendition and drone murders on our side but let that pass). This might be more effective in embarrassing Russia's Great Leader than blind assertions for the camera.

What Is More Likely?

But it is still more likely that this is a factional struggle between oligarchical elements linked to the security apparat historically and over which the Government has no formal control in which our main victim got caught up. If so, we should perhaps be co-operating with the higher levels of the Russian State to bring these elements to book and end their links and access to the security state instead of throwing out accusations and trying to destabilise the country by backing people like Navalny. 

As Putin himself drew attention, in the cut sections of a recent NBC American TV interview (the fact of the cuts is more interesting here than what Putin said because he has said this before), while the West whines about alleged Russian villainy in trying to manipulate public opinion this was a game long ago started in the West - against not only in Russia but against half the world. 

To have intellectual integrity in making claims against someone, one should not be engaged in the similar acts oneself. There is no evidence, of course, that the West is bumping off people in Russia but it had been kidnapping or bumping off people it disapproves of elsewhere without due process for quite some time. It is in alliance with countries that have a very weak sense of due process and which execute people for dissident thoughts so that export order books may be filled.

Her Majesty's Government has not yet provided the smoking gun that shows the Russian Government to have been guilty of these murders directly or through negligence. It is acquiring 'opinions' from allies. For that reason, we should remain cautious until that evidence is produced and is more than, say, the surmise of a Coroners' Court based on evidence provided by state-directed intelligence agencies behind closed doors or an analysis of intelligence agents who may know the square root of f**k-all about the actual workings of the higher levels of the Russian state security system. 

The Childishness of the Response

Forget Iraq, think back to the complete ignorance of Soviet reality right up to the Fall of the Soviet Union now evidenced by post-Soviet academic researchers and the startling ignorance of Arab Islamism and its funding that caused so much embarrassment to American intelligence agencies in the wake of 9/11. There is no reason to think that anything has really changed since then. In general, we know very little about the minds of our enemies.'Highly likely' really should have been downgraded to 'possible' and taken seriously as 'possible'.

We are, in the UK, behaving a little like Austria-Hungary in July 1914 treating Russia like Serbia - making ultimatums that no sovereign Government can reasonably accept (though this may not be so clear to a Government that finds it so ridiculously difficult to recovery its own sovereignty from its nearer Empire, the European Union).

Despite the tabloids, the Tories won't be able to carry the whole country with it for long if the squabble ever turned into something more than a tit-for-tat diplomat expulsion. War is not on the agenda if economic sanctions are relatively trivial. A surge of support for Prime Minister has already begun to drift away as people start to question the basis for the claims and share qualms about throwing around mud on a surmise. 

The Russian State are frankly thumbing their noses at the UK with good reason. They are a proud sovereign people faced with no more than allegations and political warfare, not with investigative querying and requests for collaboration to find out the truth. Prime Minister May has shot herself in the foot for mere short term propaganda advantage.

Childishly, the Russian Foreign Minister has now been banned from the UK - as if he f**king cared. And that is an insult without anything more than a 'highly likely' behind it. The UK refuses to pass over the evidence for study against international treaty. Why? What is it afraid of? Should it not have asked the Russian Foreign Minister to come to London to discuss and resolve the situation.

Other Possibilities

This all looks like dodgy politics rather than a sincere investigation. The British police, left to their own devices, are generally rather good at this sort of thing (Telford, Hillsborough and Orgreave notwithstanding ... oops, have I sown a doubt? I apologise). But let us move on from the Russian Government and look at other possibilities without descending into conspiracy theory. 

It is possible that the Russian security apparat's only role is that a rogue element has sold a nerve agent under the counter to organised crime or to oligarchs (some of whom are often no better than organised crime evenwhen they are favoured sons of Western security) in which case, again, we should be co-operating with Russia to find the villains and not cutting off investigatory collaboration. 

It is, of course, possible that the nerve agent has been constructed in a Western or ex-Soviet Republican lab and then used for black ops purposes for whatever motive but possibly one related to destroying any possible Anglo-Russian or US-Russian rapprochement. 

This cannot just be ruled out of court as conspiracy theory, given the sociopathic nature of the darker side of the security company - after all, security operations attract types like Angleton and Beria as jam attracts wasps. 

This dark side agenda would fit with other narratives related to Syria and Iraq. We have discussed this already, Chemical weapons in Syria somewhat unaccountably popped up early in public intelligence briefings that appeared on camera within hours of the incident. It is always instructive to note carefully what is said in the first 24 hours by 'justification agents' in any political warfare operation because this is the raw preferred narrative before the political experts get to adjust the message away from the intelligence bods. 
  
The Least Likely Possibilities

It is certainly unlikely but the rogue element could come from our own security apparat or, more precisely, that we have a rogue ideologue or criminal coming out of Porton Down which just happens to be around the corner from Salisbury. Elements in our own security apparat have shown rogue status in the past but let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

Rogue agents on any side with dark revenge, personal or ideological or political motivations are another possibility. This should be considered by any policeman worth his salt but how inconvenient might this be if proved to be true and how likely might it be that it would be covered up? I leave you to your own level of trust of our politicians, our own security apparat and our own police forces. The track record is not great.

As we go through the likelihoods, we can say with reasonable confidence that it is highly unlikely that the British Government did this itself (even our most sociopathic politicians are not quite that stupid and would not get it past their own civil service). 

The least likely is suicide, of course. But the point here is that one should not jump to conclusions and that include either that Putin personally ordered the acts or that a rogue Western cell decided to trigger anti-Russian sentiment out of frustration at any one of a number of policies - Ukraine, Syria, defence spending, threats to NATO, risks to Trident . 

Unfortunately the 'evidence' has now become so politicised that nothing can be trusted any more than it could be in the Syrian or Iraqi chemical weapons cases. The Prime Minister's rapid highly politicised jump to judgement has ensured that!

 Criticising 'Highly Likely'

The truth is that all security services are mostly making it up as they go along on weak intelligence. Did any of you actually read that embarrassingly trite and poorly evidenced Trump dossier which was so embarrassing and yet came from someone who had been be a leading past MI6 analyst!? Mentioning Iraqi WMD at this point would simply be a low blow so I won't. 

'Highly likely' is just not good enough when there are so many alternative analytical possibilities and before the investigation has got very far at all. Add to this the convenience for the battered Government in frightening the population into traditional Tory patriotism and distracting it from Brexit and you see a process riddled with its own lack of intellectual integrity.

The Government is taking an uneducated population for a ride and adopting the easy way out rather than a measured and sensible review of the evidence and investigation before coming to a conclusion.

The worst of it is that, thanks to the political play by a cynical Government, if Putin is guilty and it appears to be proven, one third of the population will be minded not to believe it on the precedent of the Iraqi WMD and the untrustworthiness of our own side. The country will then be more divided than ever and the relationship between a left-wing Labour Government and the security services will be one of de facto political warfare - a very dangerous situation since no one can win that struggle. 

And if evidence emerges (and some interesting evidence is emerging) that things may be a little more complicated than we are led to believe, a third of the country will stick with their ignorant cod Cold War attitudes regardless while the bulk of the population will be confirmed in their distrust of their rulers when what we badly need is a restoration of that trust. 

So Cui Bono?

Never has trust in Government been more needed and yet this weak administration once again risks throwing what trust exists away for short term advantage. The fish rots from his head and that is now what is happening to the West. But let us close by summarising, in no particular order, the 'cui bono' candidates (since it is hard to see what Putin himself gains from such an act):-

  1. Operations involved in organised crime where revenge or dark dealings around massive funds at stake in oligarchal political warfare drive actions; 
  2. Rogue members of the Russian security apparat seeking revenge without concern or understanding for Russia's higher level national interest;
  3. Cold War Western security apparat operatives in the US and Europe seeking to damage Western-Russian relations (Ukraine is a sub-set of this category but another sub-set would be Western strategists seeking to bind Europe into NATO rather than the European Army or seek rapprochement with Russia and a further sub-set is those political warfare operatives seeking to undermine Trump's general move towards rapprochement); 
  4. The Conservative government (or more accurately the Conservative-led security state) seeking to mobilise public opinion in a 'patriotic' stance against the Left and to distract attention from Brexit (as well as ensure control over NATO-led European strategic direction); and
  5. Private revenge or insanity (whether from a rogue security operative from any apparat or within the Russian community in London).

In other words, if 'cui bono' alone is taken into account and assuming (except for e)) rational actors, there are at least four sets of actor who can reasonably be considered as more likely to be culpable than the Kremlin itself represented personally by Putin and Lavrov. And this applies equally to the murder of Litvinenko insofar as a) b) and c) and not d) and only at a stretch e) might also apply in that case and in the Berezhovsky cases. 

For balance, I would add that if it is true that the Russian security apparat is itself fully criminalised and intent on revenge or implicated in organised crime (and this has some plausibility) then, while it is less plausible perhaps that Putin was directly and personally involved in the crime, then he is responsible simply as Head of State and the wheel turns back somewhat in the direction of Prime Minister May's assessment. We simply need more evidence rather than prejudiced surmise.

The truth is we do not know and we should admit we do not know, instead of throwing around accusations and relying on prejudice and rumour, at least until the investigation has ended. The British security apparat is itself not to be wholly trusted any more than the Russian and we should never forget that. 

Last Thoughts

To be clear, just because it is 'ours' does not mean that our government's intelligence and analyses are sound or that it is not driven by ideology or not manipulable by political considerations. If there is one thing that we have learned in recent history, it is the truth of that assessment. Anything else would mean little more than a tribal belief that Arsenal must always be in the right in any penalty against Spurs. Anything else would be naive.

It is hard to see how or why such an obscure event as the murder of a treacherous agent might be more useful than some dramatic act in Syria or Ukraine if it was needed to get Putin through the last few days before the vote. Perhaps Boris has the smoking gun - in which case, we must accept it if it is the gun and it is smoking but accusations should have come after the smoking gun had appeared and not before

Although the 'mass' appears at first sight to have accepted this nonsense at face value, you can tell that doubts are creeping in already. The Twitter feeds were far more doubtful than the tabloids and that doubt began to grow after a surge of early Cold War tweets that all looked suspiciously as if they were cued to persuade us. 

Both the Spectator and Peter Hitchens then showed that a substantial 'High Tory' element thought Jeremy Corbyn got it right in asking some awkward questions - it takes a lot for Tories to do that. He was right. That does not mean he is right on other things. But he was right to ask those questions. He was not saying and we are not saying that Putin is innocent but only that assertions are not proof.

The real reasons for the killing are probably obscure oligarchal struggles or revenge for past slights which may lead back to the Russian security apparat. However, the reason for its exploitation is largely about party political advantage in the UK and an attempt to dish the advocates of the European Army in favour of NATO. All this is set in an ideologically-driven High Tory and State neurosis about Russia that seems to go back to the days of Lord Palmerston.

It is all rather ridiculous - if only because it shows how defensive and anxious a weak British Government has become. So, let us now maintain an open mind, trust no one and wait on such facts as can be presented that are more than intelligence analysts' surmise and the arrival of something in our country from a stockpile over thirty years old. 

In the meantime, let us wish a swift recovery to all three victims of this heinous political act and be prepared for the possibility that it is proven or evidenced as highly likely, instead of asserted as highly likely, that the Kremlin ordered a crime on British soil and that this should result therefore in more serious sanctions than actually offered by the Prime Minister, regardless of the interests of big business and the City of London.