We British are rightly concerned about the indiscriminate use of a nerve agent on British soil. It's nasty stuff when available to the wrong sort of purveyor and symbolises a threat to the sovereign status of any country when maliciously used by a foreign power. Whilst we all suspect we actually are very unlikely to get absolute proof of who might have been behind the attack on Skripal and his daughter. So much beyond an odd murder or two is at stake - mainly driven by wealth, trade, diplomatic activity and the globalisation of the world which makes the protection of sovereignty a rather quaint old idea. We'll no doubt posture a little, say how unacceptable such actions are and threaten to not involve ourselves in sporting events 'they' are hosting - all of which will mean absolutely nothing to the Russians - if that's who 'they' are.
It is quite revealing that ordinary Russians seem to admire the tactics of its government, the strength it portrays and the justice it dishes out to anyone who gets in the way of its ambitions. There are dissidents, of course, but they end up generally disappearing, being sent to some hellish gulag or being blatantly murdered - any many Russians appear quite happy with this sort of solution. What it tells us, and it's something we should have recognised many years ago, is that the Russians are very different to us. They are ethnically different, they are historically different, they are socially different and their perception of legality and justice is different as is their acceptance of crime and governance being almost synonomous - and, more to the point, they have no interest whatsoever of conducting themselves in ways that make the international community look upon them more favourably. They almost seek out the role of bad-boy in all global matters like some form of perverse and enjoyable demonstration of their difference. So the question remains - what can a small country like Britain do when a dedicated bad-boy like Russia misbehaves on our land ? What, in reality, would hurt them most ? The answer lies within the much vaunted City of London where Russian black money is laundered ad infinitum. Yet the City is so revered by our government it finds itself in a quandary as to what it can do. 'We'll make some diplomatic noises and soon everyone will forget about it but we shouldn't stop large amounts of Russian money being handled by our ever so squeaky clean financial sector - that would be a disaster !' the civil servants and their financial string-pullers might advise. It's nevertheless what the government should force our financial sector to do. Harden up on the money-laundering - which they know full well they are encouraging - and prevent ill-gotten gains being 'cleansed' in London's markets. It's the right thing to do, it's the moral thing to do, it's the just and legal thing to do and it is the only likely action that would give the Russians cause to think. Starve them of their black money and freeze that which is held in escrow. Russia understands strength and power and bullies many into accepting its unpleasant ways. Hitting them in the wallet may just be the approach we, as a compliant and bullied state need to make.
Old Trumpy is going to meet Kim Jong-un. Oh to be fly on the wall at that one.... Notwithstanding the immediate absurdity such a meeting conjures up, we must hope that it does help resolve some of the nuclear based tensions that zap between North Korea and the US (and, by default, the rest of the world). Imagine the situation: two crazy leaders facing off to see who can intimidate the other most. It's an appalling vision but a very real one and we can only hope that there is more than a PR stunt behind this arrangement - the rest of us would really be upset if we got zapped by nuclear armageddon because two crazy people were having a ball-crunching contest.
The EU sounds quite a tame entity after thoughts of Russia and a US/NK debacle, yet to us Brits they are the enduring thorn in our ambition to run our own affairs and trade globally on a more liberal basis. There are still no signs that there will be an agreeable accord between Britain and the 27 of the EU and Donald Tusk's sombre and gloomy predictions that Britain is moving apart from Europe rather that participating in it is a predictable but naive estimation of what is occurring. Reading the hidden message of Tusk's latest commentary, we see that out of sheer bloody-mindedness the EU are prepared to sacrifice future European prosperity just to make the British know that they cannot wilfully just leave the EU. A case of bureaucracy triumphing over common sense. And that is exactly what is happening with Brexit - dogma being forced upon the common good like some unpleasant malady purely for the sake of the convictions of a handful of European bureaucrats and technocrats who value their personal status more than that of the millions of citizens they should be representing. Whilst I have little faith in the skill of our negotiating team I have infinitely less faith in the wisdom of the EU and the result is portentously messy.