DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.

 

 

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Wednesday
Mar282018

POISONING PIGEONS IN THE PARK

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who spied for MI 6, Britain’s Secret Service Agency, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by a rare nerve agent – Novichok - while sitting on a park bench in Salisbury, England. Depending on your point of view, the two were either doves of peace or stool pigeons, but indubitably members of the Columbidae avian pigeon family.  

Russia’s poisoning of human pigeons in a bucolic English park sparked world-wide outrage with Prime Minister Theresa May declaring it “highly likely” and “conclusively” that Russia and Vladimir Putin were responsible. The outrage continues with the press and media urging politicians to address these assassination, this criminal violation of United Kingdom sovereignty.    

In response Britain expelled a number of Russian diplomats, a move followed by twenty-five European and NATO countries joined by the United States. Even tiny Iceland, an island that carrier pigeons avoid and seldom visit, followed suit. This brought to mind the lyrics of Tom Lehrer’s ditty that tells of poisoning pigeons in the park which “gain[s in] notoriety and cause much anxiety … [that some would] call impiety and [a] lack of propriety, and quite a variety of unpleasant names”. Concluding that “it’s not against any religion to want to dispose of a pigeon”.

In other words, the world really doesn’t give a damn, as long as proper respect for outrage is expressed. Sanctions that would cripple Russia are avoided, the rest of the “civilized” world is given a pass to ignore the crime, business as usual goes on.

You ask “Why is the expulsion of 23 diplomats from the Britain, 60 from the United States and other countries for a total of 147 deemed inadequate?” Let me answer that by asking the question, you have answered it. The expulsion of diplomatic personnel is an empty gesture, it has no long-term effect. Russia’s economic, military or international engagement with the rest of the world continues unabated.

As I have said, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” - Russia will continue to export and sell gas, oil and minerals. Russia will continue to be engaged in the world’s financial markets – Russia’s banks will have access to financial exchanges and currency markets. Russia will access the internet and the airwaves – Russian TV will air propaganda, Russians will use Facebook for nefarious and benign purposes. Aeroflot still flies to London and New York.

That does not answer another question “Why have other countries abstained and ignored the issue?” The answer to that question is more nuanced.

Size and population are not necessarily a factor. Two small Balkan nations, Serbia and Montenegro, have opted not expel Russian diplomats – Serbia because of prior political international support and Montenegro for yet to be ascertained reasons. Yet others of like size in the region, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania, have done so for reasons that are suspect.

Proximity and history may play a role. Ukraine, still smarting from the loss of the Crimea and an on-going undeclared war, expelled 13 diplomats but stopped short of imposing more telling sanctions being dependent on Russia for energy and survival. Latvia and Lithuania remembering their world war annexation expelled 4 as did Poland, remembering the Katyn Forest Massacre and regretting being home to the Warsaw Pact.

Great Britain, the European Union, NATO and the United States, the leaders of the current pro-expulsion push, have agreed that Europe and North America to be assassination free – a “you don’t shit where you eat” zone. As for the rest of the world, anything and everything goes. The “coalition of the willing” executed Saddam Hussein and his sons Huday and Qusay calling it “regime change” in the Middle East. Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi is another example of assassination masquerading as regime change gambit. The coalition has assassinated opposition leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan in Central Asia. The United States killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born Yemeni cleric in the Arabian Peninsula. Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have been fertile killing fields in the Middle East.  

Russia’s assassination weapon of choice is the umbrella and nerve gas. For us, the “good guys”, “targeted killing” defined as “assassination -premeditated killing - of an individual by a state organization or institution outside a judicial procedure or a battlefield” is by drone and cruise missile. However, the collateral damage that these inflict is far greater than the “clinical” “precise” umbrella strikes. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that attempts to kill 41 targets resulted in at least 1,147 deaths which includes 142 children. We do not regret just and necessary collateral damage.

Most nation states have little if any constraints in dealing with foreign or domestic opposition. Assassination is an accepted way of dealing with individuals who may prove troublesome - the poisoning of a potential threat or the dispatch of a perceived traitor is an approved diplomatic gambit.  

The rest of the world shrugs at the reciprocal exodus of diplomatic personnel and carries on with life as usual, much as you and I do.

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