After all, that’s how diplomacy works

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the heart of asylum in Salisbury, moved from sabre rattling to a mere whimper. 

The former Russian agent who turned himself in, in return for protection, had an attempt made on his life by Russian citizens alleged to be involved with the Russian government. 

Of course, the Russians denied it, and stuck to their grounds, even in the face of a whole host of diplomats exiting the country. No one is saying so, but the likelihood is that these have since been replaced. 

In the meantime, the UK, for want of better things to do, has been left with egg on their face along with a smattering of the same with their allies.

In the absence of incontrovertible truth, the British didn’t have a case, especially after the main accused appeared in an interview professing an innocence that was red-faced. The upshot is Russia can’t extradite the would-be offenders, and the Western world can do nothing about it. 

In the meantime, it’s business as usual with the head of state visits from all over, barring the UK that didn’t even have the courage to pull out of the football World Cup or hold back from sending its representation.

And as the Russians had expected, the incident is being relegated to the confines of memory. For the British, two of their nationals died from the poisoning, and in diplomatic parlance have been termed as collateral damage.

Exchange of intelligence officials is nothing new in espionage, but the difference here was the use of the nerve agent Novichok that no one wants to own, yet everyone has stockpiles of.

Skripal has been whisked off to a safe house along with his daughter after a solitary interview where she expressed an unrequited desire to go to Moscow. The British government too, issued censorship that is rarely used unless of very high importance. 

While that may be relevant and necessary, the failure of the government to unearth the matter is abominable. What is clear is that the Skripals have a very limited lifestyle to live up to unless they want to write a book or something.

Skripal’s daughter’s interview with the Russian media was another red face for the British who either couldn’t figure out how they were outmanoeuvred or simply hid their faces in utter shame. 

For their part, the British did not allow any media coverage save official statements attributed to the couple that said what official statements usually do -- nothing of import. Spies usually have no real rights if and when captured, save for what the state of their choice offers.

Mikhail Gorbachev is one who can best vouch for the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. As for Adnan Khashoggi, he is no longer in the land of the living, otherwise he could also have questioned how in the sequestered life of the US he too could be got to.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.


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