Given all that’s gone on in the last two years, let alone four, you’d be forgiven for not recalling that in 2018 Vladimir Putin attempted the murder of former Russian military intelligence officer and double agent Sergei Skripal on sovereign British soil. The method Putin used — his calling card if you will — was a deadly binary nerve agent called novichok, developed in Soviet labs in the 1970s.
Save for a handful of conspiracy theory halfwits who claimed that the source of the attack was the British government itself, the universal condemnation of Putin and his evil regime was deafening. The Russian novichok attack strengthened the worldwide opinion that Russia is a rogue state and fomented common cause against the notion of Putin ever being allowed to restore the G7 conference to the G8. Apart from Donald Trump’s tepid criticism of the novichok attack, every one of America’s allies condemned the assault in language both explicit and castigating.
Indeed, so negative was the backlash it would have been reasonable to wonder if Putin regretted the use of novichok in the first place. After all, there are numerous ways to murder an unwanted opponent without the need to resort to a method so arcane and expensive and so self-incriminating that it would require the strength and economic power of an entire government to manufacture it. You would think Putin would have learned his lesson.
Think again. German authorities said on Wednesday they found “unequivocal” evidence that novichok was used against Putin’s number one nemesis, Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. Somebody poisoned Nalvany’s tea with it, and there cannot be any question that it was done under the direct order and personal aegis of Vladimir Putin himself.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned as “attempted murder” the novichok outrage and demanded that Putin answer tough questions about it. Britain said it was already working on a coordinated response to punish Russia for the chemical attack. So far Donald Trump remains silent.
The Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act demands that a U.S. president impose sanctions within 90 days of the determination that a chemical weapon has been used. So Trump has until about 30 days after the election to impose sanctions on Russia under the CBW Act. Whether or not he will, of course, remains to be seen. Apart from his love of all things evil, Donald Trump’s baffling loyalty to Putin is impossible to justify.
More puzzling still is Putin’s use of novichok again, considering how much it cost him politically the last time. The only explanation I can think of, and if you’re normal and human you’ll be as flummoxed by it as I am, is he did it because he can. He did it because he is Vladimir Putin the All Powerful, and he revels in the infamous myth he’s created for himself. Putin is his own comic book supervillain. Absurd, to be sure, but about what you’d expect from a murderous tyrant who rides shirtless on horseback while wearing a crucifix.
There’s also the ineffectual side of novichok. Thus far it’s zero for two, in terms of its power to eliminate its human target. The only “collateral damage” so far is British citizen Dawn Sturgess, a former neighbor of mine, an innocent in the silliness of Putin’s unappeasable vindictiveness. I doubt Putin even knows her name or cares that she is dead. I’m sadly reminded of her death every time I pass her boarded up house on one of my running routes. It’s what makes this whole thing so immediate, so personal, to me.
Vladimir Putin is an evil, evil man. He’s a man in love with his own power and, not only does he not care that people hate him for the evil that he is, he actually gets off on it. One thing we can do to strike back at him is to vote his biggest fan and puppet, Donald Trump, out of office in November. Let’s do it. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.