Belmont Club

Renewable Terror

A police tent covers the the spot where former Russian spy fell to an "unknown substance". (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The poisoning in Britain, probably by the Kremlin, of Sergei Skripal “a former Russian army officer who was convicted of spying for the United Kingdom” illustrates the Western dilemma in dealing with Putin.  Because Russia is a nuclear armed state, no British government wants to risk retaliation for provocations because no single life, not even that of a protected ex-British agent is worth hazarding conflict.

Skripal was among several exchanged for Russian spies belonging to the Illegals ring of sleeper agents, which was broken up by the FBI in June, 2010.  He was found delirious on a British park bench along with his similarly afflicted daughter.

From the first the Russians hinted at revenge even after the exchange.  Putin himself suggested someone had “betrayed” the Illegals and a new Mercader — a reference to the assassin of Leon Trotsky — had been set loose to track him.  In the event Putin’s despised traitor, believed to be Colonel Alexander Poetyev, fled to the US before the Illegals ring was dismantled but died in of unspecified causes in 2016.  Whether natural death saved him from the Kremlin’s agents is not known.

The suggestion is the long hand of Kremlin vengeance has once again reached out as it formerly did to remind the world that neither the Bolsheviks nor their successors ever forgive a debt. From the assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov by poisoned umbrella in 1979 to Alexander Litvinenko’s agonizing death by polonium,  the murder of Kim Jong Un’s brother in a Malaysian airport by sarin, till the latest incident, the former Communist World has shown an amazing talent for dealing out horrible doom to its foes.

Death by insidious and macabre means has long exercised its spell on British horror fans for decades.  To die is one thing, but to die by venomextrated “patiently, drop by drop — from the poison glands” of some infernal source seems particularly terrifying.

Given that Whitehall is understandably reluctant to risk conflict with Russia, the obvious avenue for any British retaliation would be the development of nuclear or other power to lessen the UK’s partial dependence on Russian gas.  Striking Putin in the wallet would not only be unwarlike but particularly effective in view of Russia’s straitened circumstances. Britain’s recent rescue by Siberian LNG from heating gas shortages caused by the bitter cold occasioned by Global Warming illustrates how obvious is this energy pressure point — to Putin at least.

But energy independence is the Third Rail of British politics, and is taboo to the Greens and Socialists.  Jeremy Corbyn illustrated this recently, vowing to nationalize the British energy industry “to fight climate change”. Corbyn’s devotion to chimerical energy sources has made surrender to Russian energy blackmail all but inevitable. Corbyn recently said:

This is a Government that has licensed fracking, declared a moratorium on renewable levies, while massively subsidising fossil fuels dithered over tidal held back onshore wind U-turned on making all new homes zero carbon and is failing to take the necessary measures to meet our legal commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

At last year’s election by contrast, Labour pledged to ban fracking, insulate four million homes, invest in rail and bus networks to reduce traffic on our roads, invest in tidal and wind, and deliver 60% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.

It’s anybody’s guess whether Corbyn’s program of sustainable energy is possible.  What is less doubtful is that sustainable terror is, paid for handsomely by gas consumers.  A few hours ago Boris Johnson “threatened fresh sanctions against Russia if it is proven to have poisoned a Russian double agent in Wiltshire” and called the Kremlin “a malign and disruptive force”.  Perhaps some symbolic retaliation will be attempted, but Johnson left off the table the one measure that would hurt Putin the most as Russia probably knew he would.

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Books:

The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, In this book, bestselling historian Max Boot chronicles the life of legendary CIA operative Edward Lansdale and reframes our understanding of the Vietnam War. Lansdale pioneered a “hearts and minds” diplomacy, first in the Philippines, then in Vietnam, a visionary policy that was ultimately crushed by America’s giant military bureaucracy. With interviews and newly available documents, Boot rescues Lansdale from historical ignominy and suggests that Vietnam could have been different had we only listened.

The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, author Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts who are recognized authorities in their own fields. He challenges them with questions like, How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event? The book reads like a captivating, fast-paced novel but it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission, by Hampton Sides. On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March 30 rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. This book vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp.

The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook, by Niall Ferguson. The 21st century has been hailed as the Networked Age. But in this book, Ferguson argues that social networks are nothing new. From the printers and preachers who made the Reformation to the freemasons who led the American Revolution, it was the networkers who disrupted the old order of popes and kings. Far from being novel, our era is the Second Networked Age, with the computer in the role of the printing press. Once we understand this, both the past and the future start to look very different indeed. Ferguson offers a whole new way of imagining the world.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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