If not Russia, then who did it?
Russia’s accusers claim there are no alternative explanations for the attack: nobody, apart from the Russian state, is understood to have had a motive for the attempted murder. This argument can only make sense to those who believe in the world of an evil, criminal Russia whose only opponents are pure, honest, angelic fighters for freedom and justice.
The main consequence of the Salisbury attack – undoubtedly one that would have been predicted by whoever planned it – is to further damage relations between Russia and the West, or at least prevent their improvement. A long list of countries (Ukraine, Poland, the US and many others) or organizations may believe they have an interest in this – at least they have been doing their best to spoil Western Europe’s relationship with Russia. Of course, the existence of a possible motive does not constitute sufficient ground to suspect anyone in particular. However, on the basis the motives involved, to quote British former Member of Parliament George Galloway, “Russia must be near the bottom of the list of suspects.”
How to get away with murder: blame Russia!
It can also not be excluded that the attack was the work of some rogue “ultra-patriotic” group within Russia (whether within or outside Russia’s state institutions) wishing to undermine Putin’s attempts to mend relations with the West by killing a “traitor” on British soil. In this case, the Salisbury attack would clearly be an act of aggression against the Russian government more than against the UK. And Britain’s refusal to cooperate with Russia would make the UK unwittingly guilty of helping the perpetrators avoid the course of justice.
Another aspect is that we do not know what personal enemies Aleksander Skripal may have had. There may be motives involved that nobody suspects. If, for whatever reason a person or organization with sufficient power wished to have him killed, there was a simple way to get away with the crime: a highly effective cover-up the crime would involve using a weapon that points towards Russia, with the knowledge the British authorities would be unlikely to seriously explore other avenues, especially in the current international climate. The same can be argued in the case of Litvinenko’s murder in 2006.
There is something particularly disturbing about the Western international community rushing to accuse Russia for any crime showing the slightest hint of a Russian connection: it provides criminal organizations and terrorists with assurances that they can avoid being held accountable. All they need to do is to leave some kind of “Russian signature”.
UK reckless attitude is dangerous
The words of Theresa May and Boris Johnson, accusing Russia for crimes it did not commit with astoundingly aggressive and hostile language, will naturally lead the Russian population and their decision makers to believe their country is the victim of an orchestrated attack. Hostility towards the West will increase dramatically as a result. British, European and North-American leaders may have convinced themselves of Russia’s guilt, but have they reflected on the possible consequences of their reckless attitude?
It is urgent to stop the escalation in the Russia blame game, which has taken a momentum of its own. It may be of benefit for the media, who can publish stories that make a good read, with an evil bogey man that everyone loves to hate, or for politicians who, when confronted with problems at home – such as the UK government with its current Brexit troubles – can take the opportunity to look strong in the face of an enemy. However, it is an extremely dangerous game which could have disastrous consequences for the entire world.