On a more serious note, this is a PR disaster. Even Margarita Simonyan herself visibly realizes as the interview goes on. Their tourism story reaches levels of implausibility that should not even be possible: We are just heterosexual business partners – but no, we won’t go into any details; our first sightseeing tour was cut short by snow, we live in the tropical part of Russia so we’re not used to it; we visited Salsbury twice just to confirm that yes, it has the highest spire of any English cathedral – no need to make a correction to Wikipedia!
Anyhow, I am not going to insult my readers’ intelligence by trying to fit their story into something consistent. In any case, since even the people who are generously compensated by Russian taxpayers don’t see it fit to do so, why should anyone else?
The only remaining question is:
- The lingering one of whether this GRU hit was a “private” criminal one, or ordered by Putin. (In all fairness, this is now of largely academic interest. The Kremlin have just painted a bulls-eye on themselves).
- Whether this PR travesty was a result of incompetence, sabotage, or an elaborate FU to the Britbongs. (Also largely irrelevant except insofar as it reveals something about the sustainability of the Putinist state; if the first option is correct, then with cadres like these, it needs no enemies).
Meanwhile, I expect this to lead to real world repercussions:
- From now on, Britain has no out to quietly bury this affair, even if it wanted to. Further sanctions from the British are guaranteed.
- Also I wonder if this is what finally gets RT booted off the British airways. If so – lame hill to die on.
- It puts Germany, which has to date been courteously skeptical towards the Brits, in an impossible position. Had they kept that hapless duo off the airwaves, this is how it would have remained. But no longer.
- Consequently, I would guess that further serious EU sanctions are now likelier than not.
- Meanwhile, a State Department official announced that it is imposing “very severe” sanctions over Skripal. This probably came too soon after the interview to be a response to it. This suggests that the US is serious about hewing to the harsher options at its disposal under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.
In the meantime, things are slowly building up to a head in Syria. Russia is currently in the middle of Vostok-2018, and still has a massive armada parked off Syria. Turkey has come out against the planned offensive on Idlib (so much for the fevered talk about a new Russian/Turkish/Iranian alliance), and is reinforcing its military presence there. DNR head Zakharchenko has recently been assassinated in the DNR; its new leader pending elections, Denis Pushilin, is a person with a murky past who is directly beholden to Moscow. The US has moved naval assets with a total of 200 Tomahawk missiles to the East Mediterranean. RT keeps reporting on imminent preparations by the rebels and White Helmets to stage a false flag gas attack, even as the Skripal affair has just undermined Russia’s credibility on gas attacks and false flag conspiracy theories.
Hopefully, probably, these are just a series of coincidences. But if this was a Hearts of Iron game, my suspicion is that the “World Tension” meter would now be unnervingly high.