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Published in Press Stream:
March 11, 2018

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Published in Stream:
March 11, 2018
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Moscow’s Development of Poisons Like One Used Against Skripal has Long History and Dark Shadow
3 years
Stream: March 11, 2018
Publication: Windows on Eurasia

Investigators in biohazard suits at the bench where Skripal and his daughter were found. Photo via CNN

Staunton, March 11 – Feliks Kubin, a Russian who defected to the US in 2013, says that he was approached before that time by FSB counter-intelligence officers who wanted him to help develop fast-acting poisons that Moscow could use against its opponents as it has apparently done now in the Skripal case. 

Kubin, who now lives in northern California, tells Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova that he was  horrified by the proposal and refused; but it now appears that others were less horrified and agreed, giving the Russian special services yet another weapon for their arsenal. 

In her article for the Russian-language Slavic Sacramento news portal, Kirillova says that given this Russian capacity, the most important question is now how Moscow tried to kill Skripal in Britain but rather why it chose this moment to do so.  To that end, she cites several former US intelligence officials with whom she spoke.

According to them, Putin may have given the order to attack Skripal now to send a message to any Russians thinking about cooperating with the Mueller investigation into Russian complicity in interference in  the 2016 election. If they think they can escape punishment in the US, they may find Moscow can “reach out and touch someone” regardless of where they live. 

That is certainly possible, but the Russian move against Skripal has another and even more disturbing consequence: it is frightening many in Europe against cooperating with anyone who may be involved in exposing Putin’s crimes. If Moscow is prepared to try to kill Skripal, such people feel, it might do the same to them.

Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, says that “a German director who made an anti-Putin film complained to [him] that many Germans are now afraid to cooperate with him.” That means, Eidman says, that “the poisoners achieved their goal." 

According to the Russian commentator, “those who attacked Skripal above all wanted to frighten the West” by a display of such audacity that Europeans will now conclude that they are Russia’s “hostages” and cannot either prevent Moscow from organizing more such attacks or saving themselves except by deferring to Putin.  

Ten days ago, the Kremlin leader sought to frighten the West with his new “super weapons” and his preparedness for nuclear war, Eidman says. Now, he “is frightening it with a mass poisoning in the center of Britain.  All these things are links in one chain,” as are his effort to “hit at sanctions with rockets and poisons.” 

In the short term, Putin’s approach may intimidate, but over the longer run, this policy is “condemned” to failure, Eidman argues. Putin wants the rest of the world to respect and even love Russia, but “you can’t build relations on fear,” the commentator suggests. Sooner or later those you try to intimidate will respond in a far more tough manner than they would have before.