You may find this article of interest. It appeared yesterday in the (UK) Guardian. There have been numerous articles and several books written on the Skripal case but this is an excellent “Cliff Notes” view of it.

A Chain of Stupidity-Skripal Case



Our colleague, Dan Mulvenna (former senior officer in the RCMP Security Service and later Chief of Corporate Security at British Petroleum), was thoughtful enough to write an excellent review (attached below) of the Harding article above. In the article, Harding described as a “chain of stupidity,” a 2108 Russian Military Intelligence attempted “wet operation” that targeted Sergei Skripal, a former officer with Russia’s GRU military spy agency, and his daughter Yulia, using the nerve agent Novichok.

Dan has worked against, studied, taught and written about the Soviet and later Russian intelligence services and operations and as head of BP’s worldwide security operations, hired many former members of the KGB, GRU, SVR, and FSB to assist that multinational in their challenging security operations. I don’t know anyone with more experience on the ground in these matters, who has studied extensively the intelligence services of the Soviets/Russians or who has a bigger library on the subject. Thank you Dan for taking the time to write this.


Rusty, feel free to use this as you see fit.

Just a few quick thoughts. Harding is a good journalist/author and has written several excellent books on Russia and the intelligence services. I agree with his general observations that the GRU [Russians] essentially underestimated the “abilities” of the U.K. police [and intelligence services] to follow/track the movements of individuals [and vehicles] around the U.K. – skills and infrastructure that they built up over the years fighting Irish terrorists/bombers. [Imagine what a great help such a system would be to our hard-pressed law enforcement agencies in the current turbulent street battles – but of course, that will never happen.] Certainly, the Russians did not anticipate that the usually complacent European nations would join the U.K. & U.S. in such [especially for them] robust sanctions. And yes, the operation could be described as a typical GRU operation conducted by “The Boots” – [Military Intelligence] as some critical SVR officers observed; Crude with poor OPSEC. [Although the GRU can and at times have run some very good operations as you well know.]

In general, Harding looks at it a bit too much from a Western perspective, despite his experience studying and writing on Russia. PUTIN and the GRU, indeed the Russian Intelligence Services in general, but in this case especially the GRU, wanted the large Russian diaspora in the West, especially PUTIN critics, dissidents and defectors, past and future, to know that their long arm can reach out and punish those who betray.

Particularly defectors who “openly” work as paid consultants for the enemy, post defection. Skripal did because of a limited longer-term financial “arrangement” with the British Service. His post defection activities with SIS, included sharing his knowledge and deep insights into the GRU’s personnel with former Bloc services, now Western allies. [Note his previous GRU HQ assignments prior to his defection.] Some of those GRU personnel were probably serving/operating in those regions at the time. No doubt this was problematic for the GRU and “a bridge too far”!
Given the nature of their system of Government AND history, as we all know, the Russian Government has a much higher tolerance for “blowback” than we do. [Deny everything – make counter-allegations – muddy the waters.] They were probably more embarrassed by the apparent ineptness and following media ridicule, even in Russia, than anything else. But, on balance, from their perspective – Strong Message sent – and Message RECEIVED by the diaspora! As you are aware the Russian Intelligence Services [RIS] have always carefully monitored [penetrated] this diaspora of their countrymen and women.

Of course, the situation is more complex and nuanced than these few observations posit.

Best Regards,

A Chain of Stupidity