• Novichok 5 in Salisbury, Wiltshire: What should be done?

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    Doctor North’s EU Referendum blog departs from is usual topic of Brexit today (http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86798) and addresses the issue of the nerve agent attack on Salisbury.
    In his typical analytical style, Dr. North’s forensic approach makes several important points of fact. And criticises Mrs May’s approach.
    However, whilst respecting Dr North’s analysis, the British Gazette’s opinion is that one should select the explanation that makes the fewest assumptions as per Ockham’s razor; and taking into consideration the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, the balance of probabilities we think indicates that either the Russian state or highly organised and influential group in Russia are responsible.
    The question is what should Mrs May do about it?
    In the British Gazette’s opinion – for what it is worth (very little) – the PM should be in contact with the UK’s NATO allies – which include the three major EU powers (France, Germany & Italy) as well as the USA. The media commentators have suggested that the Trump administration is likely to confine itself to robust rhetoric (maybe “The Donald” would care to type a few lines into his Twitter feed!). Germany is unlikely to do anything other than issue a few condemnatory platitudes. Not on Twitter though! President Macron is likely going to be more robust than Frau Doktor Merkel. The Italians will be deafening in their silence!
    Any major diplomatic action such as cracking down on Russians in the UK and freezing assets and severing relations will (as has been suggested by Doctor North) actually benefit the Kremlin and damage the UK because it will encourage rich Russians to return to Russia taking their money with them – a Kremlin objective for some time now.
    Mrs May has to do something however. Her problem is that if she does to little the UK is humiliated internationally and if she reacts as mentioned above, it will cost us. After all, she needs an international mini crisis with Russia like she needs a hole in the head.
    If your Editor was in her shoes – which I would change immediately as I am not into heels !! – I’d do three things:
    1. Pull the British teams from the upcoming competition – we won’t win anyway!
    2. Send the Russians a bill for the clean up, decontamination and investigation in Salisbury. They won’t pay it of course but the cost could be made public.
    3. Refer the attack to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking them to set up an investigation this is because – whoever deployed this highly sophisticated and dangerous nerve agent – there is a prima facie case of a breach of international law to answer.

    • One aditional point that is raised by North’s piece.
      It would be useful to know how quickly the toxin used degrades over time; what its shelf life is. If, as North speculates, it might have been made in the Soviet era in Uzbekistan (which lapsed into chaos after the fall of the USSR) then that might explain why the nerve agent didn’t kill immediately (and let us pray, it doesn’t still kill) as one might assume it should if it were ‘fresh’.

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