RUSSIA LONGS to be taken seriously in matters of global affairs, but President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated his disdain for the rules-based post-World War II order. What does Russia want instead? In two recent incidents involving the use of outlawed chemicals, Russia’s answer has been a frantic parade of lies, bizarre explanations and attempts to distract from finding the truth.
Russia was a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that prohibits “the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons.” Those are the rules that Russia agreed to abide by.
On March 4, in the southern British town of Salisbury, a former Russian intelligence officer turned double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were discovered collapsed on a bench. An investigation by the British authorities and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found they were poisoned by a binary nerve agent developed in the last years of the Soviet Union, known as the Novichok class. The OPCW noted that the poison was of “high purity.”
No one has proved who did it. But Russia responded with a frenzy of blame-throwing, some of it patently ridiculous. A Russian member of parliament who once headed the Federal Security Service suggested the agent came from Ukraine. A Russian diplomat pointed to the Baltic states. A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Russia never did work on Novichok but the countries that could have made it are “Great Britain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Sweden. The United States should also be suspected, as well.” Mr. Putin said, “It’s complete drivel, rubbish, nonsense that somebody in Russia would allow themselves to do such a thing ahead of elections and the World Cup.” “Was there even a poisoning at all?” asked Aleksey Pushkov, a prominent Russian politician. Such easily vanishing facts would make the KGB blush.
The sad truth is that this fog drifts far and wide. Russia’s stock-in-trade is sowing doubt, most recently on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said he had “irrefutable evidence” that the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians on April 7 was staged. A Russian defense ministry spokesman claimed that Britain was involved . Then the Russian ambassador to London said it had been staged by the White Helmets, brave humanitarians who save Syrians under the bombs, not drop them. The suggestion was a despicable untruth. It also says a lot about the new world disorder Russia is working to create.
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