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Skripal case: EU Council ditches Theresa May’s ultimatum to Russia

EU Council statement retreats from “culpable” to “highly likely”, and refers to “ongoing investigation” of Skripal case

Alexander Mercouris

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In my previous article about the failure of Britain’s allies to give Britain the strong support it expected in the Skripal case I predicted that the EU Council meeting on 22nd March 2018 would publish a statement which appeared to be strongly supportive of Britain but which on careful examination would turn out to be less than it seemed.

So it has been proved, as shown by the statement the EU Council did put out, which has now published on the Europa website

  1. The European Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attack in Salisbury, expresses its deepest sympathies to all whose lives have been threatened and lends its support to the ongoing investigation. It agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security.

  2. The use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons under any circumstances, is completely unacceptable, must be systematically and rigorously condemned and constitutes a security threat to us all. Member States will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities. The European Union will remain closely focused on this issue and its implications.

  3. Against this background, the European Union must strengthen its resilience to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its Member States as well as NATO. The European Union and its Member States should also continue to bolster their capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cyber, strategic communication and counter-intelligence. The European Council invites the European Commission and the High Representative to take this work forward and report on progress by the June European Council.

(bold italics added)

One of the great problems any person trying to make sense of the current state of international relations immediately encounters is that any news concerning Russia is immediately subjected to a vast volume of negative noise.

This is the case with this EU Council statement, which the British media – predictably enough – is presenting as a “victory” for Theresa May.

This article in The Times of London serves as a good example.

Note for example how this article misrepresents a telephone conversation on 22nd March 2018 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a Russian “diplomatic rearguard action to avoid further punitive measures”.

In fact, as the Kremlin’s summary of the conversation shows, it was Tsipras who called Putin, doing so – as Trump and Macron have previously done, and as the Finnish and Croatian Presidents also did on the same day – in order to congratulate Putin on his re-election.

In reality what the EU Council statement does is take the position back to what it was in Theresa May’s statement to the British House of Commons on 12th March 2018 ie. before the British ultimatum, which has been effectively annulled.

In her statement of 12th March 2018 Theresa May used the following words

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Mr. Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March.

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country.

Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

The words “highly likely” and “plausible explanation” in the EU Council statement are obviously taken from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 statement.

However on 14th March 2018 – following expiry of her ultimatum – Theresa May in a second statement to the British House of Commons said the following

Mr Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

What was only “highly likely” on 12th March 2018 had on 14th March 2018 become fact, so that based on Russia’s supposed failure to answer Britain’s questions by the deadline Theresa May set in her ultimatum of 12th March 2018 there was “no alternative conclusion” than that Russia “was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter” and had committed “an unlawful use of force….against the United Kingdom”.

This definite conclusion of Russian culpability in Theresa May’s 14th March 2018 statement has now been set aside.

We are now once again back in the EU Council statement – which note Theresa May has signed – to the position of Russian responsibility being no more than “highly likely” as it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” leave open the possibility that the murder attempt on Skripal was the work of someone else other than Russia.  Theresa May after all admitted as much in her statement of 12th March 2018 when she said she would only conclude the Russians were guilty if they failed within the deadline set by her ultimatum to answer her questions.

Even the words “no plausible alternative explanation” – also clearly borrowed from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 – are qualified words.  They leave open the possibility of other “alternative explanations” which may for the moment appear “implausible” but which could turn out to be true.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” – which imply no more than suspicion – come nowhere close to meeting the test applied by British courts to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

As a matter of fact the EU Council statement pointedly refers to an “ongoing investigation” – something which implicitly admits that questions of guilt or innocence in the case have still not been decided – and over the course of which the Russians are expected to answer questions (“the answers provided by the Russian authorities”).

Of course the fact that the Russian authorities are once again being asked to provide answers to questions – without moreover any deadline being set for their answers – further confirms that Theresa May’s ultimatum of 12th March 2018 – which demanded Russia’s answers by midnight on 13th March 2018 – has been set aside.

Unsurprisingly, since the question of Russian involvement in the Skripal attack has now once again been downgraded from certainty to mere suspicion, the “unlawful use of force” in Theresa May’s statement of 14th March 2018 has also been downgraded to a “grave challenge”.

Needless to say, the EU Council statement also says that the EU gives Britain its “unqualified solidarity”, and in a joint press conference Merkel and Macron have said that they treat the British claim that the nerve agent which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal is a Novichok to be as “well founded”.

However Merkel and Macron also spoke of the investigation being still ongoing, whilst the “unqualified solidarity” the EU is giving is with Theresa May’s position of 12th March 2018, not with her position of 14th March 2018.

The EU Council statement is in fact a typical product of compromise.

Media reports suggest that the original draft was – no doubt intentionally – much weaker.

That allowed scope for negotiations with the British over the wording of the draft in which the British were forced to respond to the objections of counties like Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece, which have all made their doubts about the British rush to judgement perfectly clear.

That set the scene for Merkel to do what she always does in these situations, which is broker an apparent compromise, which is in reality the position she has had all along.

In this case that is to put the position back to where it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018, minus Theresa May’s ultimatum of that date, which has now been cancelled.

Meanwhile the prospect of further significant EU action against Russia has been kicked into the long grass, with any further action being apparently postponed until the conclusion of the investigation, which the British police are saying may be months away.

By that time of course Brexit will be even closer, and Britain’s diplomatic traction within the EU will be even weaker than it is now.

Of course if the investigation has not been concluded before Brexit takes place – which as of the time of writing is starting to look increasingly likely – then British diplomatic traction within the EU by the time the investigation is finally concluded will be weaker still.

In the meantime the only thing the EU for the moment is collectively prepared to do is make the token gesture of withdrawing the EU’s ambassador from Moscow for four days for consultations.

Some EU member states are supposedly considering expelling Russian diplomats.  Should that happen then the Russians will of course respond in kind.

However significant further sanctions against Russia are according to one of the EU’s Commissioners apparently being ruled out.

As the US recently concluded, further sanctions against Russia would be ineffective and counter-productive anyway.

Whilst the Skripal affair is not over, I suspect that the peak of the international aspect of this “crisis” is now passing.

If one compares what the British appeared to be threatening at the start of the crisis two weeks ago with what has actually happened, it is questionable whether there has even been a “crisis” at all.

No major Western state apart from Britain has cut off high level contacts with Russia.  No sanctions of any sort have been imposed.

Proposals to break off diplomatic relations with Russia, cut Russian banks off from SWIFT, launch cyber attacks against Russia, declare Russia a terrorist state, ban Russians from buying property in London, and for a boycott of the 2018 World Cup, appear to have been abandoned

If the British plan was to get NATO support by invoking Article 5 – as I strongly suspect – then that plan has failed.

Even talk of cancelling RT’s broadcasting licence in Britain seems to be abating.

There have been reciprocal expulsions of diplomats from London and Moscow.  As I have said previously that will hurt the British more than it will hurt the Russians.  If more tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian diplomats involving other European countries happen, that will hurt the Russians more.  However it will hardly help those countries either.

In fact the only significant step any party has so far taken during this “crisis” which will cause any other party actual injury is the Russian decision to close down the British Council in Russia.

Whilst that is hardly a major blow, for a country like Britain which relies so heavily on soft power it is a blow nonetheless.

The crisis may have damaged further Russia’s already terrible image in Britain and – though I suspect to a much lesser degree – in northern Europe (in the US this crisis appears to have barely registered, whilst perception of Russia – and of the Skripal crisis – is completely different in southern Europe).

However my impression is that the British reaction to the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was so over the top, and so obviously violated due process, that in the long run it will be Britain whose image will have been damaged across Europe more than Russia’s.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s recently retired former Foreign Minister, has recently described the Skripal affair as a “bad James Bond film” and that I suspect is what many Europeans – including many European governments – privately think.

Even in Britain I am starting to sense that a reaction is starting to set in, with even some of Theresa May’s new found fans noticing that the hysteria over the Skripal case has coincided with a further cave-in by Theresa May in the Brexit talks, and some of her fans perhaps even noticing that the actual position of Britain’s Western allies in the Skripal case is essentially the same as the much despised position taken by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom some sections of the British media have come close to branding a traitor.

As for the Skripal case itself, the prospect of an impartial inquiry has been almost certainly fatally compromised by Theresa May’s disastrous decision to pre-empt the investigation’s findings by making a declaration of Russia’s guilt just days after the investigation had begun and whilst it was still underway.

Inevitably that is going to put enormous pressure on the investigators to support her conclusions, making it less likely that important clues will be followed up.

I no longer expect ever to learn the truth about this affair

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May Forces Brexit Betrayal to its Crisis Point

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote. 

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


The only words that were left out of Theresa May’s announcement of achieving Cabinet approval over her Brexit deal were Mission Accomplished.

Theresa May was put in charge of the U.K. to betray Brexit from the beginning.  She always represented the interests of the European Union and those in British Parliament that backed remaining in the EU.

No one in British ‘high society’ wanted Brexit to pass.   No. One.

No one in Europe’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

No one in the U.S.’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

When it did pass The Davos Crowd began the process of sabotaging it.  The fear mongering has done nothing but intensify.  And May has done nothing but waffle back and forth, walking the political tight rope to remain in power while trying to sell EU slavery to the both sides in British Parliament.

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote.  Why?

Because Theresa May’s 585 page ‘deal’ is the worst of all possible outcomes.  If it passes it will leave the EU with near full control over British trade and tax policy while the British people and government have no say or vote in the matter.

It’s punishment for the people getting uppity about their future and wanting something different than what had been planned for them.

Mr. Juncker and his replacement will never have to suffer another one of Nigel Farage’s vicious farragoes detailing their venality ever again.  YouTube will get a whole lot less interesting.

It’s almost like this whole charade was designed this way.

Because it was.

May has tried to run out the clock and scare everyone into accepting a deal that is worse than the situation pre-Brexit because somehow a terrible deal is better than no deal.  But, that’s the opposite of the truth.

And she knows it.  She’s always known it but she’s gone into these negotiations like the fragile wisp of a thing she truly is.

There’s a reason I call her “The Gypsum Lady.” She’s simply the opposite of Margaret Thatcher who always knew what the EU was about and fought to her last political breath to avoid the trap the U.K. is now caught in.

The U.K. has had all of the leverage in Brexit talks but May has gone out of her way to not use any of it while the feckless and evil vampires in Europe purposefully complicate issues which are the height of irrelevancy.

She has caved on every issue to the point of further eroding what’s left of British sovereignty.  This deal leaves the U.K. at the mercy of Latvia or Greece in negotiating any trade agreement with Canada.  Because for a deal between member states to be approved, all members have to approve of it.

So, yeah, great job Mrs. May.  Mission Accomplished.  They are popping champagne corks in Brussels now.

But, this is a Brexit people can be proud of.

Orwell would be proud of Theresa May for this one.

You people are leaving.  Let the EU worry about controlling their borders.  And if Ireland doesn’t like the diktats coming from Brussels than they can decide for themselves if staying in the EU is worth the trouble.

The entire Irish border issue is simply not May’s problem to solve.  Neither is the customs union or any of the other stuff.  These are the EU’s problems.   They are the ones who don’t want the Brits to leave.

Let them figure out how they are going to trade with the U.K.  It is so obvious that this entire Brexit ‘negotiation’ is about protecting the European project as a proxy for the right of German automakers to export their cars at advantageous exchange rates to the U.K. at everyone’s expense.

Same as it was in the days of The Iron Lady.

If all of this wasn’t so predictable it would be comical.

Because the only people more useless than Theresa May are the Tories who care only about keeping their current level of the perks of office.

The biggest takeaway from this Brexit fiasco is that even more people will check out of the political system. They will see it even more clearly for what it is, an irredeemable miasma of pelf and privilege that has zero interest in protecting the rights of its citizens or the value of their labor.

It doesn’t matter if it’s voter fraud in the U.S. or a drawn out betrayal of a binding referendum. There comes a point where those not at the political fringes look behind the veil and realize changing the nameplate above the door doesn’t change the policy.

And once they realize that confidence fails and systems collapse.

Brexit was the last gasp of a dying empire to assert its national relevancy.  Even if this deal is rejected by parliament the process has sown deep divisions which will lead to the next trap and the next and the next and the next.

By then Theresa May will be a distant memory, being properly rewarded by her masters for a job very well done.


Please support the production of independent and alternative political and financial commentary by joining my Patreon and subscribing to the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter for just $12/month.

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The DOJ Is Preparing To Indict Julian Assange

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno.

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Via Zerohedge…


The US Justice Department is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange which, after sensitive international negotiations, would likely trigger his extradition to the United States to stand trial, according to the Wall Street Journalciting people in Washington familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, U.S. prosecutors have discussed several types of charges they could potentially bring against Mr. Assange, the people said. Mr. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since receiving political asylum from the South American country in 2012.

The people familiar with the case wouldn’t describe whether discussions were under way with the U.K. or Ecuador about Mr. Assange, but said they were encouraged by recent developments.

The exact charges Justice Department might pursue remain unclear, but they may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information. –WSJ

In short, the DOJ doesn’t appear to have a clear charge against Assange yet. Then there’s the optics of dragging Assange out of Ecuador’s London Embassy and into the United States, then prosecuting him, and if successful – jailing him.

Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a terrible and dangerous precedent,” said Assange lawyer Barry Pollack – who says he hasn’t heard anything about a US prosecution.

“We have heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent,” he added.

Moreover, assuming that even if the DOJ could mount a case, they would be required to prove that Russia was the source of a trove of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks released in the last few months of the 2016 election.

An indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller that portrayed WikiLeaks as a tool of Russian intelligence for releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign has made it more difficult for Mr. Assange to mount a defense as a journalist. Public opinion of Mr. Assange in the U.S. has dropped since the campaign.

Prosecutors have considered publicly indicting Mr. Assange to try to trigger his removal from the embassy, the people said, because a detailed explanation of the evidence against Mr. Assange could give Ecuadorean authorities a reason to turn him over. –WSJ

It’s no secret that Assange and Hillary Clinton aren’t exactly exchanging Christmas cards, however would WikiLeaks’ release of damaging information that was hacked (or copied locally on a thumb drive by a well-meaning American), be illegal for Assange as a publisher?

Despite scant clues as to how the DOJ will prosecute Assange aside from rumors that it has to do with the Espionage Act, the US Government is cooking on something. John Demers – head of the DOJ’s national security division, said last week regarding an Assange case: “On that, I’ll just say, we’ll see.”

The U.S. hasn’t publicly commented on whether it has made, or plans to make, any extradition request. Any extradition request from the U.S. would likely go to British authorities, who have an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Assange related to a Swedish sexual assault case. Sweden has since dropped the probe, but the arrest warrant stands.

Any extradition and prosecution would involve multiple sensitive negotiations within the U.S. government and with other countries. –WSJ

Beginning in 2010, the Department of Justice beginning under the Obama administration has drawn a distinction between WikiLeaks and other news organizations – with former Attorney General Eric Holder insisting that Assange’s organization does not deserve the same first amendment protections during the Chelsea Manning case in which the former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty at a court-martial of leaking thousands of classified Afghan War Reports.

US officials have given mixed messages over Assange, with President Trump having said during the 2016 election “I love WikiLeaks,” only to have his former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo label WikiLeaks akin to a foreign “hostile intelligence service” and a US adversary. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange, meanwhile, has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno – who called the WikiLeaks founder a “stone in our shoe,” adding that Assange’s stay at the London embassy is unsustainable.

Ecuador has been looking to improve relations with the U.S., hosting Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 amid interest in increasing trade.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry declined to comment. This month, Foreign Relations Minister José Valencia told a radio station the government hadn’t received an extradition request for Mr. Assange.

Mr. Assange has clashed with his Ecuadorean hosts in over internet access, visitors, his cat and other issues. Last month, he sued Ecuador over the conditions of his confinement. At a hearing last month, at which a judge rejected Mr. Assange’s claims, Mr. Assange said he expected to be forced out of the embassy soon.  –WSJ

Assange and Ecuador seem to have worked things out for the time being; with his months-long communication blackout mostly lifted (with strict rules against Assange participating in political activities that would affect Ecuador’s international relations). Assange is now allowed Wi-Fi, but has to foot the bill for his own phone calls and other communication.

In October, a judge threw out a lawsuit Assange filed against Ecuador from implementing the stricter rules,.

“Ecuador hasn’t violated the rights of anyone,” Attorney General Íñigo Salvador said after the court ruling. “It has provided asylum to Mr. Assange, and he should comply with the rules to live harmoniously inside Ecuador’s public installations in London.”Assange’s attorneys say he will appeal the ruling – however it may be a moot point if he’s dragged into a US courtroom sooner than later.

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Trump Understands The Important Difference Between Nationalism And Globalism

President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention.

The Duran

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Authored by Raheem Kassam, op-ed via The Daily Caller:


President Macron’s protests against nationalism this weekend stand in stark contrast with the words of France’s WWII resistance leader and the man who would then become president: General Charles de Gaulle.

Speaking to his men in 1913, de Gaulle reminded them:

“He who does not love his mother more than other mothers, and his fatherland more than other fatherlands, loves neither his mother nor his fatherland.”

This unquestionable invocation of nationalism reveals how far France has come in its pursuit of globalist goals, which de Gaulle described later in that same speech as the “appetite of vice.”

While this weekend the media have been sharpening their knives on Macron’s words, for use against President Trump, very few have taken the time to understand what really created the conditions for the wars of the 20th century. It was globalism’s grandfather: imperialism, not nationalism.

This appears to have been understood at least until the 1980s, though forgotten now. With historical revisionism applied to nationalism and the great wars, it is much harder to understand what President Trump means when he calls himself a “nationalist.” Though the fault is with us, not him.

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism … By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others,’ we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” President Macron declared from the pulpit of the Armistice 100 commemorations.

Had this been in reverse, there would no doubt have been shrieks of disgust aimed at Mr. Trump for “politicizing” such a somber occasion. No such shrieks for Mr. Macron, however, who languishes below 20 percent in national approval ratings in France.

With some context applied, it is remarkably easy to see how President Macron was being disingenuous.

Nationalism and patriotism are indeed distinct. But they are not opposites.

Nationalism is a philosophy of governance, or how human beings organize their affairs. Patriotism isn’t a governing philosophy. Sometimes viewed as subsidiary to the philosophy of nationalism, patriotism is better described as a form of devotion.

For all the grandstanding, Mr. Macron may as well have asserted that chicken is the opposite of hot sauce,so meaningless was the comparison.

Imperialism, we so quickly forget, was the order of the day heading into the 20th century. Humanity has known little else but empire since 2400 B.C. The advent of globalism, replete with its foreign power capitals and multi-national institutions is scarcely distinct.

Imperialism — as opposed to nationalism — seeks to impose a nation’s way of life, its currency, its traditions, its flags, its anthems, its demographics, and its rules and laws upon others wherever they may be.

Truly, President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention, expounded by President George Washington in his farewell address of 1796:

” … It must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of [Europe’s] politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

It should not have to be pointed out that the great wars of the 20th century could not be considered “ordinary vicissitudes”, but rather, that imperialism had begun to run amok on the continent.

It was an imperialism rooted in nihilism, putting the totality of the state at its heart. Often using nationalism as nothing more than a method of appeal, socialism as a doctrine of governance, and Jews as a subject of derision and scapegoating.

Today’s imperialism is known as globalism.

It is what drives nations to project outward their will, usually with force; causes armies to cross borders in the hope of subjugating other human beings or the invaded nation’s natural resources; and defines a world, or region, or continent by its use of central authority and foreign capital control.

Instead of armies of soldiers, imperialists seek to dominate using armies of economists and bureaucrats. Instead of forced payments to a foreign capital, globalism figured out how to create economic reliance: first on sterling, then on the dollar, now for many on the Euro. This will soon be leapfrogged by China’s designs.

And while imperialism has served some good purposes throughout human history, it is only when grounded in something larger than man; whether that be natural law, God, or otherwise. But such things are scarcely long-lived.

While benevolent imperialism can create better conditions over a period of time, humanity’s instincts will always lean towards freedom and self-governance.

It is this fundamental distinction between the United States’ founding and that of the modern Republic of France that defines the two nations.

The people of France are “granted” their freedoms by the government, and the government creates the conditions and dictates the terms upon which those freedoms are exercised.

As Charles Kesler wrote for the Claremont Review of Books in May, “As a result, there are fewer and fewer levers by which the governed can make its consent count”.

France is the archetypal administrative state, while the United States was founded on natural law, a topic that scarcely gets enough attention anymore.

Nationalism – or nationism, if you will – therefore represents a break from the war-hungry norm of human history. Its presence in the 20th century has been rewritten and bastardized.

A nationalist has no intention of invading your country or changing your society. A nationalist cares just as much as anyone else about the plights of others around the world but believes putting one’s own country first is the way to progress. A nationalist would never seek to divide by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, or otherwise. This runs contrary to the idea of a united, contiguous nation at ease with itself.

Certainly nationalism’s could-be bastard child of chauvinism can give root to imperialistic tendencies. But if the nation can and indeed does look after its own, and says to the world around it, “these are our affairs, you may learn from them, you may seek advice, we may even assist if you so desperately need it and our affairs are in order,” then nationalism can be a great gift to the 21st century and beyond.

This is what President Trump understands.

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