GP Taylor: We kill traitors – so what if Russia tries the same?

Soldiers in protective clothing investigating the nerve agent attack against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
Soldiers in protective clothing investigating the nerve agent attack against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
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SALLY Jones was vaporised by an American missile whilst fighting for Daesh – the so-called Islamic State – in Syria last year. There was nothing left of the “White Widow” and possibly her young son. She was the target of an American air strike and the world rejoiced. A terrorist had been neutralised.

A Government source said: “The Americans zapped her trying to get away from Raqqa. Quite frankly, it’s good riddance.”

Fast forward to March 2018. Salisbury, England. A former Russian agent turned traitor is out for lunch with his daughter. He is an asset who betrayed and sealed the fate of 300 Russian agents, his former comrades. Mysteriously he is poisoned.

The world is outraged. Russian embassy officials are sent home around the world. The Old Bear is prodded with sticks and Vladimir Putin is presumed guilty before any real evidence is made public. Russia denies involvement and yet the world damns it without trial.

I have to ask this. Even if Russia had tried to kill off a former double agent, what is the difference between trying to kill a traitor and incinerating a terrorist?

Both had betrayed the country of their birth. Both had at one time been actively involved in a war against their homeland.

In the world of espionage, the murky goings-on of the faceless agents very rarely reach the pages of a newspaper. The world of spying is a complicated place. The rule book was torn up long ago and now anything goes. Spying is a dangerous game and being a double agent has fatal consequences if you get caught.

State-sanctioned assassinations are nothing new. Just ask the Americans, they are a dab hand at it. The CIA has been implicated in many mysterious deaths on foreign soil. Yet, as they are our allies, the British government is complicit in its silence. Had the Americans tried to kill off Sergei Skripal, I suggest the British response would be far different.

The danger with baiting the great Russian bear is that it has a tendency to bite back. Putin does not like to be told what to do and in times of crisis the Russian people have a habit of rallying around their president.

Not only does Russia have to contend with European- sponsored expansionism into its former territories, but also to sanctions and accusations of attempted murder. Russophobia is endemic amongst the political classes and, worryingly, the narrative from all political parties is the same.

As countries around the world side with Theresa May, Russia is becoming more and more isolated and is being pushed into a dangerous place. Anything that is done to escalate this crisis is very worrying.

Rather than pushing Russia further, the Government should answer its requests to gather round the conference table so that it can explain where this poison came from and why it ended up being used on British soil. Doubtless, Putin will have some idea who is behind this attack, even if it was not a state-sponsored assassination attempt.

Boris Johnson has a duty not to inflame the situation any further and go out of his way to make Russia explain to the world what it knows about this terrible event. Now is not the time for sabre rattling. After all, owing to government cuts, Britain doesn’t have the wherewithal to fight a war against Liechtenstein, let alone Russia.

The shared narrative that Russia is the bad guy has to stop if we are to preserve peace.

In this, I agree with Jeremy Corbyn. Isn’t it right to see all the evidence before accusations are made? If Russia is guilty of this heinous crime, then it should be held firmly to account. Everything possible has to be done to find the truth behind 
this incident.

However, I have to ask how Britain can be so insulted by this attack when our government has been party to the killing of British nationals living abroad.

If Russia was to adopt British foreign policy in regards to potential terrorist threats, then we could see drone missiles flying through the aisles of Sainsbury’s as they track down former spies in hiding.

Politically, Britain should be doing its utmost not to isolate Russia.

It is so important for world peace that Mother Russia is respected for her power rather than mocked and chided.

Punishing the iron state just deepens the rift and heralds a new cold war that could be far more dangerous than I care to imagine. After all, it was 20 million Russian dead that saved the world from fascism.

The reality is that Russia isn’t frightened of the West, so what is the point in pushing it to the point of no return?

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster from North Yorkshire.