March 19, 2018
By Robert Kuttner | Mar 20, 2018
Odd Couple. The pattern of Russian lying, in this case to deny any involvement in the murder of a former Russian double agent in Britain, sounds faintly familiar. The British government has identified the weapon as a military-grade nerve agent called Novichok, a compound made only in Russia. On Sunday, Putin called the claim “total rubbish, drivel, and nonsense.” (They don’t edit him for redundancy.) Putin went on to insist that Russia had destroyed all of its chemical weapons, as required by international treaty, more than two decades ago.
Piling on, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC that if Britain had indeed identified Novichok, then the Brits must have stockpiled chemical weapons themselves, and one could have gotten loose. Another Russian diplomat, Alexander Shulgin, ambassador to the Netherlands, went further, denying that such a compound even existed: “There has never been any program under the group name Novichok in the Russian Federation,” he said.
And Russia’s ambassador to Britain took that denial even further. Alexander Yakovenko suggested that maybe the whole story was British fabrication to distract attention from Brexit. “Nobody even saw the pictures of these people in the hospital,” he said.
Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Donald Trump boasted, at a fundraiser, that he had simply made up his claims of a Canadian trade surplus that he used to berate Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I said ‘Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’”
In terms of brazen lying, it’s hard to say who wins the fabrication derby—Putin or Trump. It’s one more form of affinity between the dictator and the would-be dictator.
For now, Trump can only envy Putin. Trump doesn’t get to use toxins to assassinate enemies, though his impact on American democracy has been toxic.
Putin, who just won “re-election” in a landslide, destroyed his opposition first. Poor Trump still has to contend with elections, and maybe with impeachment.