Damian Reilly writes at The Spectator:
It is deeply weird that Jeremy Corbyn will not condemn Russia for carrying out a chemical weapons attack on British soil. Actually, it’s beyond weird. It’s astonishing.
I disagree. From everything I know about Corbyn, it is not at all weird. What seems weird to me is that so many of his supporters are apparently undisturbed by this.
At PMQs this week, after Theresa May named the two Russian agents that British intelligence is certain carried out the attack, Corbyn spoke only of bringing “those responsible” to justice. His sole direct criticism of Russia, in fact, was merely “for its failure to cooperate with this investigation.” It was an extraordinary response.
Reilly notes that the Kremlin has practically turned on a flashing neon sign proclaiming: “We Did It!”
The two smirking Russian GRU goons sent to carry out the hit could hardly have made themselves more obvious had they goose-stepped through customs in full Russian military garb. They made no effort to disguise their origin – they flew direct from Moscow to Gatwick, for God’s sake – and likewise made no attempt to conceal their faces from CCTV cameras wherever they went. Naturally, their weapon of choice, novichok, is only made in Russia.
Other than leaving a business card – “V. Putin, Esq” – at the scene of the crime, it’s not easy to see what more the Kremlin could have done to aid investigators. And that’s without considering the ‘previous’ – namely, the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. It’s almost as if Putin wanted the world to know who was behind the hit.
When Trump sided with the Russian leader in July over his own intelligence agencies (“he just said it’s not Russia – I don’t see any reason why it would be”) minds were blown. You could hear a hundred million foreheads being slapped from across the Atlantic. But here in the United Kingdom, we don’t seem, with any real conviction, to level the same accusation at Corbyn, despite the sympathies some of his closest advisers are known to have for Russia. I suspect that might soon change. By repeatedly dismissing the findings of the British intelligence agencies as they relate to the Skripal case, Corbyn walks the same dangerous road as Trump.
Sometimes Trump will grudgingly acknowledge that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 Presidential election, but in such a way that shows he isn’t convinced. And then, in the face of overwhelming evidence assembled by US intelligence agencies, he will cast doubt:
In an interview with Reuters on [August 20], the president dropped just such a shrug about Russia’s efforts in the middle of a loosely connected thought. The investigation into whether anyone associated with his campaign aided the Russian effort, he said, “played right into the Russians’ — if it was Russia — they played right into the Russians’ hands.”
That’s the entirety of the quote that we have, making it hard to decipher any reason that Trump might have offered the “if it was Russia” interjection. It seems fair to assume, though, that it was simply spontaneous, a reversion to his long-standing practice of adding a question mark after every iteration of the word “Russia.”
So what is behind Corbyn’s and Trump’s inability to accept the obvious when it comes to the Putin regime?
In Corbyn’s case, I suppose it has something to do with a tattered notion (left over from Soviet days) that Russia is some sort of bulwark against Western imperialism. Unlike Israel, to which Corbyn can never give the benefit of any doubt, Russia apparently deserves the benefit of every doubt.
As for Trump, he has made no secret of his admiration for Putin and his authoritarian style of governing. But perhaps more than that: Trump believes any acknowledgement that Russian hacking and disinformation may have had even the slightest impact on the 2016 election would undermine the “massive landslide victory” he can’t stop bragging about almost two years later.