This article is based on information reported by Kit Klarenberg in his article for Sputnik on 4 January 2019, whose work we acknowledge with thanks.
The Skripal affair of March 2018, in which Russian traitor and MI6 agent Sergei Skripal and his visiting daughter were hospitalised as a result of allegedly imbibing some kind of poison in or near Skripal’s home in Salisbury, southwest England, has been rightly ridiculed as a farcical attempt to blame Russia in general and its president Vladimir Putin in particular for attempted murder in a foreign country – allegedly using weapons and techniques that even the creators of James Bond stories and films would struggle to pass off as realistic or likely while keeping a straight face.
Yet, as silly as the story got, it seems that the vast majority of the bourgeois media and politicians in the imperialist countries and a few of their puppet states claimed, and still claim, to believe it without question.
We have previously printed articles pointing out just some of the discrepancies and absurdities contained in the official story, and a number of other independent journalists and media outlets have dug far deeper than we, but the huge round-the-world organisation and daily repeating of the official imperialist narrative has continued to be as impressive as the story was unbelievable and sloppy.
We know that western imperialists, despite any schisms, contradictions or downright enmity between their various groupings, continue to combine to attack Russia, but the speed, cohesion and obvious orchestration involved in this case was nevertheless breathtaking.
On 4 January 2019, the hacking group Anonymous released more documents that it had ‘acquired’ from various servers of the Nato – and British-backed ‘Institute for Statecraft’ (IfS) and its subsidiary, the ‘Integrity Initiative’ (II). The files make clear that the shadowy IfS/II think tank, if not the actual conductor of the orchestra, certainly played the role of the conductor’s baton during the media and political circus that followed the Skripal poisoning.
One file that immediately set alarm bells ringing was from early 2015 – a full three years before the Skripal affair. Named ‘Russian Federation Sanctions’, it was written by one Victor Madeira of the IfS. In it, he outlined “potential levers” to achieve Russian “behaviour change”, “peace with Ukraine”, “the return of Crimea to Ukraine”, “regime change in Russia” and more. The suggested ‘levers’ spanned almost every conceivable area, including civil society, sports, finance and technology.
In a section that he marked “intelligence”, Madeira suggested simultaneously expelling “every RF [Russian Federation] intelligence officer and air/defence/naval attache from as many countries as possible”. In parentheses, he referenced ‘Operation Foot’, the expulsion of over 1,000 Soviet officials from Britain in September 1971 – the largest expulsion of alleged intelligence officials by any government in history.
The section on sports also suggested “advocating the view [that Russia] is unworthy of hosting [sporting] events”, while the section marked ‘information’ recommended the sanctioning of ‘Russian’ media “in west for not complying with regulators’ standards”.
In April of the very same year, the chief of IfS, Chris Donnelly, was promoted to Honorary Colonel of SGMI (Specialist Group Military Intelligence), and in October he met with General Sir Richard Barrons, who was then commander of Britain’s Joint Forces Command.
The notes from the meeting don’t make clear who said what, but one of the participants despaired: “If no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response, then we need to find a way to get the core of government to realise the problem and take it out of the political space.”
“We will need to impose changes over the heads of vested interests. We did this in the 1930s. My conclusion is it is we who must either generate the debate or wait for something dreadful to happen to shock us into action.
“We must generate an independent debate outside government. We need to ask when and how do we start to put all this right? Do we have the national capabilities [and/or] capacities to fix it? If so, how do we improve our harnessing of resources to do it? We need this debate now. There is not a moment to be lost,” they said.
We now know that within days of the poisoning of Sergai Skripal and his daughter, the IfS had submitted a proposal to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office “to study social media activity in respect of the events that took place, how news spread, and evaluate how the incident is being perceived” in a number of countries.
This led to the launch of ‘Operation Iris’, under whose auspices the IfS employed ‘global investigative solutions’ firm Harod Associates to analyse social media activity anywhere in the world that was related to Skripal.
Based on insights submitted by individuals connected to the II who lived in several countries, IfS ‘research fellow’ Simon Bracey-Lane produced regular ‘round-ups’ of media coverage overseas for the IfS to pass onto interested bodies.
There are clear indications that the IfS sought to shape the news narrative after the attack – and, indeed, to shape the British government’s response. One file, dated 11 March 2018, appears to be a briefing document on the affair to date, with key messages printed in bold type throughout.
The document opens by setting out its declared “narrative” of the Skripal affair: “Russia has carried out yet another brutal attack, this time with a deadly nerve agent, on someone living in Britain.”
“Use of the nerve agent posed a threat to innocent British subjects, affecting 21 people and seriously affecting a police officer. This is not the first time such an attack has been carried out in the UK … 14 deaths are believed to be attributable to the Kremlin … Russia has poisoned its enemies abroad on other occasions, most notably then-candidate for the presidency of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, in 2004. Russian political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has been poisoned twice; and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was also poisoned and later shot dead. Since [Russian president Vladimir] Putin has been running Russia, the Kremlin has a history of poisoning its opponents in a gruesome way.”
The author goes on to declare that the British response has been “far too weak … It’s essential the government makes a much stronger response this time.” Hethen adds a list of “possible, realistic, first actions”, including banning Russian news channels RT and Sputnik from operating in the UK, boycotting the 2018 World Cup, withdrawing the British ambassador from Moscow and expelling the Russian ambassador to Britain, and refusing/revoking visas to leading Russians within Vladimir Putin’s ‘circle’, and their families.
It’s not clear to whom the above document was distributed by the II, but it may have been given to journalists within the II’s British ‘cluster’, if not others. This would explain why the II’s ‘narrative’, and its various recommended ‘responses’, utterly dominated mainstream media reporting of the affair for months afterwards – despite the glaring lack of evidence of Russian state involvement in the attack.
If the IfS/II were not conducting the official response, one wonders why so many of the briefing document’s recommendations should echo the suggested ‘levers’ outlined in the institute’s 2015 document.
It is also ominous to note that ‘Global Operation Foot’, which had been spoken of in that file, duly came to pass on 28 March 2018, when more than 20 countries expelled over 100 Russian diplomats.
It is striking also that Victor Madeira, the IfS staff member who made the recommendations in 2015, made many media appearances to discuss the Skripal poisoning, and that these were routinely documented by the institute.
Another ‘liberated’ document dating to July 2018 contains the contact details of one Pablo Miller, who is/was Sergei Skripal’s MI6 recruiter, handler and, interestingly, his neighbour in Salisbury. Anonymous is claiming that this document is an invitee list for a meeting that the IfS convened between certain interested individuals and the terrorist/false rescue group that has been operating in Syria, the White Helmets.
Another of those little coincidences that keep cropping up is the fact that the Pablo Miller named above also did military service in close connection with Mark Urban, BBC diplomatic and defence editor. Urban is the author of a book based completely on the IfS narrative called The Skripal Files, which was published in October 2018.
The power and connections of these murky organisations – the ‘Institute for Statecraft’ and the ‘Integrity Initiative’– are only glimpsed a little in this article, but we invite the reader to imagine just who their many friends are and what dirty tricks they have already carried out without detection.
More importantly, we must inevitably ask ourselves: what more do they have planned for the future?
Such are the background connections between bourgeois politicians, ‘captains of industry’, the media, the military – in a word, the ruling class; those who really hold state power in Britain.