My antipathy toward Russian president Vladimir Putin is nothing new. He murdered my neighbor. To be sure, Dawn Sturgess was someone I never met and didn’t know, but for me she became a personal symbol of all the innocent victims of evil. She died from Novichok poisoning, the only person to actually die from that binary nerve agent when Putin employed it on two occasions to retaliate against what his paranoid fancy deemed “enemies of the state.”
The first time it happened was in 2018 when Putin sent two of his goons to murder Russian defector Sergei Skripal, then living in the lovely cathedral city of Salisbury, England, eight miles from my home. Putin’s goons used Novichok. Mr. Skirpal and his daughter were grievously injured but survived. Only Ms. Sturgess, an innocent bystander, died. She was accidentally poisoned when her boyfriend found a Novichok-ladened perfume bottle and gave it to Ms. Sturgess as a present just 1000 metres from where I live.
The second time was 20 August 2020, when Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok. He too survived and his name came up in Wednesday’s summit meeting between President Joe Biden and the international thug and murderer Vladimir Putin. Putin refused to even use Navalny’s name. Mr. Navalny is currently languishing in a Moscow prison cell.
There can be little doubt that this meeting with the President will be used in Russia as a propaganda ploy to burnish Putin’s image. Photos of the world’s most overrated gangster shaking hands with Biden will be splashed across Russian TV, newspapers and official websites. There may have been no G8, but Putin got his very own personal G2, or so the narrative will go in Russian and rightwing American media alike.
It is a measure of how Donald Trump’s own poison has spread like Novichok through Republican neighbourhoods that conservatives today remain, like Trump, soft on Russia. One can still recall the “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat” t-shirts proudly worn by Trump-licking cretins at his Nuremberg-style rallies. This attitude toward one of America’s deadliest enemies still prevails. It is Trumpism at its most loathsome.
But make no mistake, brothers and sisters, no matter how often it is repeated in the press and even by our very own side, the Geneva summit was not a win for Putin. Nobody knows it better than the gangster himself. He has lost his greatest ally and thereby any real and meaningful grip on America. Trump was in awe of Putin. Putin was everything Trump wanted to be: powerful, untouchable, immune to criticism and arguably the world’s first trillionaire. President Biden deals with Putin because of the reins of power Putin holds. But he has no illusions about the man, no envy, no secret admiration, nothing but a deep-seated loathing and contempt for everything Putin represents.
So, again, make no mistake, this was not a loss for America. The Geneva summit symbolised a loss for Putin. No longer is American power held hostage to fortune by a deranged narcissist. President Biden drew a line in the sand in Geneva, a line between America and torture, America and oppression of free speech, America and cyber attacks. For all his smiles and posing for pictures Putin has had to make one giant climb down — and he knows it. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, America is back. And stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.