Understanding Russia through the lens of Edinburgh Conversations

Professor Tim Hayward’s post about Russian relations is a very useful lens for understanding more  https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/edinburgh-conversations-with-russians/ and his closing thought

My closing thought is that although Erickson’s extraordinary combination of talents was of course unique, as was the historic opportunity into which he transformed the momentous challenge of his day, we can all learn something from the principles he applied in promoting real mutual understanding between Russia and the West. If there is one thing we can emulate it is his determination to participate in seeking ways to achieve peace. We can even try to seek out ways that others might not have thought of. A crucial requirement is not to be fooled by those who have an interest in promoting war. Among the key factors in Erickson’s success at bringing together the great Cold War enemies was, I believe, his steadfast refusal to take nonsense from anyone. That was why he was trusted on both sides. Nor would he engage in any kind of subterfuge – notwithstanding the enticements that undoubtedly came his way. If the rest of us are not in a position get the top brass around a table as Erickson could, we can still engage in respectful and honest conversations with counterparts elsewhere in the world. We can build shared understandings, across contrived divides, of the simple truth that it is never we, the ordinary people, who seek war.1

I’m not going to say what I think has happened in the UK because I don’t know. This is hopefully the last post I feel compelled to write about the incident in Salisbury, I don’t own a TV so any interaction with news channels is very limited (inoreader and twitter to be precise and I don’t watch everything).

1. I don’t know if the Skripal’s were poisoned by anything at all and whether the two people described as being on a park bench and suffering are Sergey and Yulia Skripal. I don’t know what happened in Salisbury prior to that event other than a very short account of a doctor which was published on the BBC website mentioning that she found two people and put Yulia in the recovery position. I don’t know if paramedics have been interviewed or any witnesses as I haven’t seen any accounts.

2. I don’t know that the three people mentioned in a written letter to The Times from a consultant at Salisbury hospital is the same three people or whether the letter was written by the consultant – I have checked with other health professionals of similar roles and they say the letter does sound like a letter written by a consultant and that the other cases mentioned would be likely in that scenario. I don’t know if there are three people in Salisbury hospital who have suffered the symptoms described in the letter and whether two of them are the same people mentioned above.

3. I don’t know if that is a house where Sergey Skripal lived and whether there were pets living there as well.

4. I don’t know if there is pressure being applied to local residents, visitors,  public services and/or defence professionals in and around that area which may impact on their words and actions or lack of them, not just for alleged ‘security’ reasons but other reasons too. With police, NHS, counter-terrorism, security services, defence and private contractors in all, that is a lot to keep track of and in constant conflict.

I don’t believe anything is likely or highly likely of any kind and playing politics is not just disgraceful from the Conservatives and other parties but also dangerous because of 4, it really shows that they do not care about the implications around public safety. I don’t believe it’s likely that someone came from Russia to Salisbury and attempted to murder two people when there are many other places where they (by they I mean anyone who wants or is contracted to murder people and not just Russian citizens or citizens from former USSR or anyone goung in or out of these countries etc – am just clarifying in relation to what I think is x came from Russia..) So they as in whomever from another country or passing through it can do this in a different country possibly with less attention. I don’t believe that so-called state actors in particular decide that “it is now or never” and run away making a mess in the process.

I can see the media is showing street ‘theatre’ – whether it is fiction or not needs forensic analysis but the forensic analysis has challenges with a constantly changing narrative from the Conservatives, media and the involvement of Porton Down be it with alleged poisoning analysis of some kind and any related potentially previously living mammals including humans.

If someone is clear about what happened they are not – for example an expert in forensics is not an expert in weapons although they may have some knowledge relevant to both, an expert in chemistry is not an expert in human behaviour etc but there are a lot of people writing a lot of information claiming to know what happened whilst a murder investigation may be turning into attempted murder or not even that. And the so-called experts going along with the Conservatives are getting predictable amounts of attention.

I’m interested in the people who are making less noise and trying to present a way forward that improves long-term international relationships with Russia especially. That is more important than this alleged incident and the attention it is getting.


1. Hayward T Professor (2018) Edinburgh Conversations With Russians, Tim Hayward blog, available at https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/edinburgh-conversations-with-russians/

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