Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Asif Ahmad | What a nerve, Russia

Published:Monday | April 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Asif Ahmad
In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, police officers stand outside the house of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.

The column by Michael Dingwall (28 March) on the heinous attack on civilians in the United Kingdom casts Russia as a victim at a time when global reaction points to the unacceptable conduct of a state.

Has Russophobia gone too far, he asks. Russia has gone too far. This is not about some retro Cold War game. A father and daughter were attacked by an illegal, highly sophisticated nerve agent at their home. A British police officer was seriously affected as he was the first responder to the stricken victims.

More than 130 ordinary residents in Salisbury are being checked for contamination. The UK is home to over 800,000 people of Jamaican heritage. All of us in Britain and the wider world are now exposed to the threat of chemical warfare. The last time we faced this in Europe was in World War II.

The disinformation campaign and the deployment of desperate and contradictory arguments from the Kremlin fail careful scrutiny. The nerve agent used has been identified as Novichok. This is a military-grade weapon developed in the Soviet Union era. Transport and delivery of this chemical weapon can only be executed by highly sophisticated experts from Russia.

At first, Moscow claimed that they stopped producing Novichok. Then they said they never made the substance. The Russian scientists Vil Mirzayanov and Vladimir Uglev have separately confirmed the continuation of the Novichok programme from the Soviet era to Russia today. In all, more than 30 implausible arguments have been made, including the absurd suggestion that the chemical weapon was produced in the UK. Russia has been caught red-handed in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.




The fact that some former members of the Soviet Union have taken action to demonstrate their abhorrence to the attack in Salisbury is the most effective rebuttal of the assertion that the break up of the Soviet Union was a grand western plot. President Gorbachev will be hailed in history as a statesman who chose reform over violence. Sovereign nations seceded from a federation. They have embraced democracy and universal values and norms of behaviour. As a member of the Security Council, Russia shares a responsibility for a rules-based world. Instead of shining a light to peaceful coexistence, Moscow is signalling to North Korea and Syria that the use of illegal weapons is acceptable.

The emergence of Russia as a rogue state is a sad and dangerous development. Russians have endured the hardships of war. Many still bear the scars of brutal dictatorship. A modern Russia, engaged in global prosperity and development, using the talents of its people, is what we anticipated in a democratic Russia. Instead, we see a pattern of behaviour that now threatens security in countries thousands of miles from the Russian Federation.

The annexation of Crimea, intervention in the Donbas, the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane, cyberattacks, interference in Montenegro, concealment of chemical weapons in Syria and tacit endorsement of Assad's war on his own people, interference in election campaigns, are just some examples of a betrayal of a rules-based world, the UN Charter and other norms by which we all want to live.

The only possible response from Jamaicans and others who know right from wrong is to condemn Russia for declaring war on civilians using a forbidden chemical weapon. Our friends and allies have stood by Great Britain and have damaged Russia's espionage network. More measures will follow.

- Asif Ahmad is British high commissioner to Jamaica and The Bahamas.