Brake: UK must build coalition to end Putin’s murderous adventurism

It’s a shame we’re on the way out of a strong international institution just at the time people are carrying out state sponsored executions with military grade nerve agents in our quiet pizza restaurants.

Tonight, we’ve called for a series of sanctions against Russia in the wake of their alleged attack on British citizens.

We agree with the government that Russia is either directly or indirectly complicit in the attack and suggest five things we could do:

  • Boycott the World Cup in Russia and finding an alternative venue.
  • Seize the UK-based assets of those implicated in this attack, and previous attacks through the creation of a UK Magnitsky Act
  • Introduce travel bans for top Russian officials
  • Suspend arms sales to Russia
  • Ensure that the forthcoming register of beneficial ownership trusts is publicly accessible.

Tom Brake gave some advice to the Government and had a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn too:

Putin is attempting to be the puppet master of the world, it is time we cut the strings.

The UK must build a coalition of the willing, able to put an end to Putin’s murderous adventurism, and show murder condoned or directed comes at a very heavy price.

Putin is a bully who will not be put back in his box by entreaties from the Leader of the Opposition to have a chin wag over beer and sandwiches.

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120 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Mar '18 - 11:24pm

    Superb!

    Not one word about military action or other overblown scaremongering as if the only alternative to the chinwag beer and sandwiches were that.

    We are good Liberal Democrats, we believe in peace and diplomacy. And in liberty, democracy and decency.

    Tom Brake represents us here, thanks.

  • “The UK must build a coalition of the willing,”

    Oddly reminscent phrase…..
    http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/11/20/prague.bush.nato/

  • If it is alleged then one cannot be adamant that it is state sponsored. This is the problem with loaded language. Accusation is not proof.

  • Also isn’t this kinda close to Trump’s stance on Islamic terror?

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '18 - 6:51am

    Lorenzo, doesn’t every sensible person believe in “peace and diplomacy”? Judging by the odd comment on LDV not all Liberal Democrats would appear to!

    By the way, if Trump doesn’t play ball, we are stuffed!

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Mar '18 - 7:20am

    This poisoning is a criminal act.
    Where is the evidence which is of a quality which would be accepted in a criminal court?
    A fundamental of our justice is that both sides in the matter have access to the evidence and a real opportunity to present their case.
    No verifiable direct evidence of Russian state responsibility has yet been produced.
    If you were accused in such a case, would you find a lack of evidence disclosure and a time slot of two days sufficient?
    Transparency, objectivity and investigative rigour are essential for the sustainable safety of our Nation.
    Has HMG been transparent in its communication to us, objective, and rigorous in its investigations and actions?
    Why the tardiness in safeguarding the citizens of Salisbury?

  • England should boycott the World Cup in Russia. Somethings in life are just too important than Soccer.

  • Andrew McCaig 14th Mar '18 - 7:57am

    I think our politicians including Tom Brake should think about the way we claim we do things here. The link shows that novichok was made in Uzbekhistan, not in the Russian Federation. That country was particularly chaotic after the fall of the Soviet Union and any amount could have ended up in criminal hands

    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/unlikely-that-vladimir-putin-behind-skripal-poisoning-1.3425736?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    In this country we are supposed to abide by the rule of law. People are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Here we have tried Putin in a Kangaroo Court and released the lynch mob of the popular press.

    Do I think Putin is capable of ordering the death of Skripal? – yes, definitely! Do I think he has ordered such deaths in the past? Very likely. However, a double agent will have many enemies besides Putin, many of whom will have no scruple about killing him, and some of whom may well have access to nerve agents smuggled out of Uzbekhistan.

    We have to come up with more evidence that this before we start taking action, and Liberal Democrats should say so instead of running scared of the hysterical Press. I mean do we necessarily believe what our secret service tells us, after Iraq??

  • Jayne mansfield 14th Mar '18 - 8:29am

    More posturing.

    We need a sanctions and money laundering bill that has the Maginsky powers.

    It is the only way to hurt Putin and his friends where it hurts.

    Well done Corbyn, an opposition politician who is strangely accused of ‘politicking’ when he draws attention to a sensible, concrete way of dealing with Putin.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar '18 - 8:42am

    “We agree with the government that Russia is either directly or indirectly complicit in the attack”

    Why are we joining in this rush to judgement? In the comments on Joe Otten’s earlier LDV article on the Salisbury attack there are several thoughtful links to journalists suggesting that there are other possible culprits. And Russia seems within its rights to ask that we go through the agreed international procedure for resolving accusations of use of chemical/biological agents, which requires allowing 10 days for an initial response.

  • The Voice….We agree with the government that Russia is either directly or indirectly complicit in the attack and suggest five things we could do………….

    Goodness that was quick…Let’s not bother to read any expert advice regarding the widespread availability of the ‘UNIQUELY RUSSIAN’ nerve agent…Let’s not consider any alternative motives after all, we all know that Putin is the leader of the only country that kills outside it’s borders…Let’s not enquire too deeply into what Putin gains by poking a stick into the hornet’s nest that is today’s world…. Let’s ignore the fact that the leadership of the UK, US, Israel, etc. are beset by problems and the resurrection of a common outside enemy couldn’t come at a more opportune time…

    Instead, led by Boris, “Forward the Light Brigade” or even more ominous, “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the (figurative) dogs of war”……

  • Ed Shepherd 14th Mar '18 - 9:28am

    Boycott the World Cup? This has been bandied about since even before this poisoning incident. A boycott is a non-starter. Looking at the nations taking part in this World Cup, it can be seen that many of them (perhaps most) have no reason to be sympathetic about problems suffered by the British government. They are former colonies and recent victims of Western imperialism or both. They have suffered a lot more than three inhabitants incapacitated. Many of the nations also have plenty of reasons to stay on the right side of a resurgent Russia that has the most decisive, effective and incisive leader of our time. Many of our supposed partner nations in NATO or the EU will value an increased chance of getting on in the World Cup to supporting a British government that is militarily weak and politically incompetent (Iraq, Libya, for instance). Not to mention that the British government is more than just the government of England and the constituent nations of the UK contain many people who would rather support any football side except England. A boycott is a non-starter. And where would the alternative venue be? Qatar? China? It is very common now for sporting events to be held in non-democratic countries. Questions might be asked why only Russia is held to be a politically unacceptable venue for a sporting event. A boycott would be worse than useless. It would strengthen Vladimir Putin. In a country where a rich and famous former footballer spits on fans from the comfort of his expensive 4×4, it might be questioned just how civilised England is today and whether England is a good advert for the sport.

  • I watched the interview with the Russian gentleman now living in USA who claimed to have had responsibility for the development of the toxin used in Salisbury. He claimed that tiny amounts could cause great problems and that the symptoms might be seen at any time. At least that is what I think he said. I watched the statements from the British authorities about it being a tiny risk. My thought is that we need to have a real discussion about how we support the people who must be really stressed by events that may have resulted in long term problems for them and their families. There are very many victims – and it is what we do for them which has to be our first consideration.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar '18 - 10:19am

    @Ian Sanderson

    The parallels with Litvinenko are not that close. And while you may be right that Russian cooperation will not help, they have offered to respond under the Chemical Weapons agreement which I understand gives them 10 days. Why not allow them that 10 days? We will be on stronger ground internationally if we are seen to have followed internationally agreed procedures.

  • Helen Dudden 14th Mar '18 - 10:25am

    I can’t understand why no one knew this was being planned. My sympathies are for all those still very unwell.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar ’18 – 10:19am……….The parallels with Litvinenko are not that close. And while you may be right that Russian cooperation will not help, they have offered to respond under the Chemical Weapons agreement which I understand gives them 10 days. Why not allow them that 10 days? We will be on stronger ground internationally if we are seen to have followed internationally agreed procedures……….

    Waiting 10 days would not fit the ‘Strong (and stable)’ image now being projected by No.10…After all, in this sudden wave of ‘righteous anger’, those who urge caution can be, to use Joe Otten’s words, “Slapped down” and can be called ‘appeasers’, ‘quislings’ and worse…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '18 - 1:03pm

    John

    We are in favour of peace and diplomacy first, not gun boat variety, these suggested actions are measured and gradual and are not dictat.

    Jayne

    You call it posturing then praise for ding something that the leaders of our party, the Liberal Democrats, are also calling for, Corbyn, why is he the only one praised whrere is your approval of the same idea in the list here.

    Do you praise Corbyn for being in an anti semitic facebook group, and do you , as I do, bother to research that…do yu praise him for attending celebrations of the Iranian revolution, and inviting Hamas, the culprits in the recent explosion in Gaza meant for the leaders of their own people…

  • Just watched the PM’s statement in the House and the Leader of the Oppositions response to it.

    Must say the Tory back benches were appalling and would not do credit to the terraces of a Second Division football club.

    As to ‘slapped down’ – tabloid stuff, unworthy, illiberal and would not be permitted in the Council Chamber, Mr Otten.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '18 - 1:56pm

    Apologies to John and Jayne , typos galore!

  • I’m MASSIVELY disappointed in Tom Brake’s response on this. We used to be a country of the rule of law but now it seems lynch mobs and kangaroo courts are the order of the day as Andrew McCaig says.

    There is much that doesn’t add up about this murder, in particular ‘Why nerve agents?’ and ‘Who benefits?’.

    Nerve agents are a ‘curious’ (read: ‘stupid’) choice of weapon for an assassination given the high risk of collateral damage (as in fact happened) and given that Putin who, whatever you may think of him, is a brilliant strategist who would know that any use of nerve agents would certainly be laid at Russia’s door making this a massive own goal.

    Conversely, using a nerve agent, would be the perfect way for someone hostile to Russia to frame it given the paranoia of ‘Russiagate’ and a press that has mostly forgotten the difference between news and propaganda.

    We need a better press. We also need a better opposition.

  • Putin’s Russia has taken on an increasingly sinister character in recent years. We should not repeat the mistake of the 1990’s in not aiding Russians in developing democratic institutions and a stable economy during its transition from communism.
    Russia is a small economy burdened with a wholly disproportionate military capability relative to the external threats it may face.
    It may be counter-intuitive but we may achieve a better outcome if we remain open to the increasing number of Russian citizens fleeing this authoritarian and endemically corrupt state. They might be economic migrants, but the ability to seek a new life in the west for millions of Russians could do more to undermine the authority of the kleptocrats in the Kremlin than any amount of external diplomatic pressure or economic sanctions.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar ’18 – 1:03pm….Jayne, Do you praise Corbyn for being in an anti semitic facebook group, and do you , as I do, bother to research that…

    Did your research tell you that this is the same group that Corbyn left in 2015 after reading the ant-semitic sentiments that were being posted on the site?

    BTW…I read somewhere that Corbyn actually has the disloyalty to grow RED onions in his allotment…obviously an absolute bounder!

  • Andrew McCaig 14th Mar '18 - 3:32pm

    JoeB,

    I think your information on the Russian economy is a bit out of date. Here is the BBC version. Bit of a blip since Crimea, but a huge improvement since the disastrous post-Soviet period. I note in particular that internet use is about to pass the USA.. Poverty graphs for the UK show us flatlining at best since 2008

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43210257

    It is certainly true that Russia is spending increasing (and worrying) amounts on the military, but don’t expect an economic collapse as result. The bits of Putin’s recent speech that were not threatening us with nuclear weapons were announcing rafts of investment in infrastructure and the health service that we could definitely do with need here.

    Russia is still a resource-rich country and Russian people are quite satisfied with economic progress under Putin (anything but Yeltsin!), which is the main reason for his popularity. People who think Russia is some sort of house of cards need to re-evaluate their opinions – Putin is not going away any time soon!

  • ” The link shows that novichok was made in Uzbekhistan, not in the Russian Federation. That country was particularly chaotic after the fall of the Soviet Union and any amount could have ended up in criminal hands “.

    I do not agree with the government of the Russian Federation on many issues but what evidence is there that directly links them to this event? The link was during the USSR and since then many unstabling events have happened in Russia and elsewhere (elsewhere in the former soviet republic was where this chemical was tested).
    It surely is not in Russia’s interest to embark on an act of this nature: not now or any time.
    It could have been anyone including ISIS/Diash with criminal connections and those wanting to damage Russian-UK relations.
    Let a FULL International investigation take place with the UN: Lets see the evidence from both sides before coming to any conclusion.

    I expect better from the Lib Dems not to speed off on this Anti-Russian racist propaganda from the cold war: OK the soviet regime was repressive.
    The UK government has isolated itself too far with wanting to leave the EU, and now its isolating itself further without real evidence in both cases.

  • Roger Billins 14th Mar '18 - 3:47pm

    I am puzzled by a lot of the statements above. it seems to me that the evidence of the event itself and the past recent behaviour of the Russian Government and its agencies is overwhelming that they are the culprits. We may have turned a blind eye to the shooting down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, the invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the attempted destabilisation of the Baltic republics, the backing given to the Assad regime, cyber hacking and the use of our property market for money laundering but the use of nerve gas on British soil is a step too far. And yes, although I am an avid football fan, I would support the boycott of the World Cup in Russia and for that matter Qatar as I supported the sporting isolation of apartheid South Africa and would have supported the boycotting of the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
    It is a mistake to draw too many lessons from history. This is very different from Iraq and the dodgy dossier.
    Tom Brake certainly spoke for me.

  • Andrew McCaig,

    the BBC Russian service is quoting figures from official survey-based measures. This 2017 study co-authored by Piketty presents a somewhat different picture http://www.nber.org/papers/w23712. The abstract notes:

    “This paper combines national accounts, survey, wealth and fiscal data (including recently released tax data on high-income taxpayers) in order to provide consistent series on the accumulation and distribution of income and wealth in Russia from the Soviet period until the present day. We find that official survey-based measures vastly under-estimate the rise of inequality since 1990. According to our benchmark estimates, top income shares are now similar to (or higher than) the levels observed in the United States. We also find that inequality has increased substantially more in Russia than in China and other ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe. We relate this finding to the specific transition strategy followed in Russia. According to our benchmark estimates, the wealth held offshore by rich Russians is about three times larger than official net foreign reserves, and is comparable in magnitude to total household financial assets held in Russia.”

    With an economy the size of Italy, oil prices relatively low, military spending at 5.4% of GDP (compared to Italy at 1.5%) and a level of wealth inequality that Credit Suisse has described as so extreme compared to other countries that it “deserves to be placed in a separate category.”, something has to give eventually in Russia.

  • matt severn 14th Mar '18 - 4:31pm

    Several commentators logging on here from St Petersburg I see
    Please go away. This forum is for Lib Dems, not Kremlin sock puppets

  • Ed Shepherd 14th Mar '18 - 4:45pm

    Ban arms sales to Russia? Does the UK sell any military arms to Russia? They seem to have more and better weapons than the UK has. Their service firearms are definitely better and they have a fleet of maritime patrol aircraft whereas the UK scrapped its brand new maritime air fleet when the coalition took power in 2010.

  • David Allen 14th Mar '18 - 4:58pm

    Gordon said:

    “Nerve agents are a ‘curious’ (read: ‘stupid’) choice of weapon for an assassination given the high risk of collateral damage (as in fact happened) and given that Putin who, whatever you may think of him, is a brilliant strategist who would know that any use of nerve agents would certainly be laid at Russia’s door making this a massive own goal.”

    It depends what Putin’s aims might have been. Perhaps Brexit Britain, not just the Skripals, was the main target? Perhaps the main aim was to put a weakened Britain to the test, to demonstrate that Britain can now be kicked around with impunity, and/or to put a strain on Britain’s political and commercial alliances?

    If it was an “own goal”, then why do we hear prominent Russian spokespeople say that “traitors” should not live in Britain? Isn’t that more-or-less an admission of responsibility, indeed a boast of responsibility? It sounds more like a deliberate warlike act than an own goal.

  • matt severn 14th Mar ’18 – 4:31pm……………..Several commentators logging on here from St Petersburg I see…Please go away. This forum is for Lib Dems, not Kremlin sock puppets………

    So much for free speech, dialogue with opposing views and liberal values…and you criticise Russia?

  • Dennis Mollison,

    it is not simply the Litvinenko case. There have been a series of unexplained deaths. The buzzfeed investigation https://www.buzzfeed.com/heidiblake/from-russia-with-blood-14-suspected-hits-on-british-soil?utm_term=.shwAgWPpW#.vckLZnj0n notes:

    “The Russian government passed new laws giving its agents a licence to kill enemies of the state abroad in 2006, the same year two assassins from the FSB, Russia’s spy agency, flew to London to poison the defector and one-time KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. Last year, a British public inquiry found that Vladimir Putin had likely approved that assassination in an act of nuclear terrorism in the British capital that was impossible for the government to ignore. But high-ranking intelligence sources said other less glaringly obvious assassinations have gone unpunished.

    Russian assassins have been able to kill in Britain with impunity over the past decade, 17 current and former British and American intelligence officials told BuzzFeed News. The reasons for Britain’s reticence, they said, include fear of retaliation, police incompetence, and a desire to preserve the billions of pounds of Russian money that pour into British banks and properties each year. As a result, Russia is making what one source called increasingly “bold moves” in the UK without fear of reprisals.”

    The breach of the Chemical Weapons agreement is a secondary, albeit serious, issue and I am sure the OPCW will comply wth the ten day notice requirement when they make inquiries of the Russian government. The UK has asked for a response within 48 hours to the primary issue of apparent Russian state sponsored murders or attempted murders in the UK. In making no acceptable response to the allegations it is inevtable that sanctions must follow.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Mar '18 - 5:16pm

    Exactly right for the Lib Dems to react strongly to this. It’s an outrage and basically a terrorist attack against Britain from Russia.

    I’m not calling for war with Russia, but I am calling for relations to be put into the freezer.

  • What does the Russian embassy do in London?…There are less than 60 accredited diplomats and it now appears that 23 are just spies…It would be arrogant to assume that our security forces have identified all their spies so we must assume that perhaps only 15-20 are not involved in espionage…
    Those few must be really hard workers…

  • Gordon,

    apologies for succumbing to Godwin’s Law, but:

    “Putin who, whatever you may think of him, is a brilliant strategist”.

    Lloyd George said something rather similiar about Hitler in 1936 (after Hitler had reoccupied the Rhineland in March of that year) https://thegreateststorynevertold.tv/lloyd-georges-impressions-adolf-hitler/

    “Germany does not want war. Hitler does not want war. He is a most remarkable personality, one of the greatest I have ever met in the whole of my life, and I have met some very great men.”

    Even a Liberal Prime Minister of Lloyd George’s renown was prone to gross errors of judgement in assessing the character and integrity of dictators at crucial times.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar '18 - 6:59pm

    @JoeB

    I know there have been quite a few deaths (Litvinenko, Berezovsky), but there were clear motives for Russian state involvement in those cases. And having read the Buzzfeed link you posted, it also seems clear that our police and prosecutors have been reluctant to pursue most of these (Litvinenko of course excepted). Can you explain the motive for killing Skripal at this time? .. and also the motive for our government making such a big deal of it so soon?

    Awful as the attack is, there is so much far worse state violence going on just now: but then as Stalin is supposed to have said” `killing one person is murder, killing a million is a statistic’.

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '18 - 7:05pm

    You know, I just wonder, when the Soviet Union collapsed, if the West hadn’t succumbed to the hubris that allowed them to rub Russia’s nose into the **** that resulted, things might have turned out very differently. Had we done less gloating and more understanding, could we have avoided Yeltsin AND Putin? Does anyone remember the intro to ‘Have I got news for you” (or was it ‘Spitting Image’) when the ‘Berlin Wall’ fell and Coca Cola and other signs of globalisation popped up? Indeed, the current intro cartoon to HIGNFY features a ‘Russian’ turning off the gas pipeline to Western Europe and all the lights going out.

    Well, we are where we are, with a US administration that appears to be concentrating on its own backyard, a resurgent China, an EU whose powers appear to be waning and a Russia with apparently a massive chip on its shoulder, exhibiting the kind of paranoia which would do credit to North Korea, and which is not helped when NATO’s borders appear to be creeping ever eastwards.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '18 - 7:29pm

    Expats

    The explanation yours, here, is theirs for him, ie covering, McDonnell said this was when and why Corbyn removed himself, Corbyn says that’s not the case,he left that is all he says, if he had in disgust he would have commented on it as one or two others did highlighted in the extensive undercover journalistic investigation, no on this more than Czech spys or Russian comments, Corbyn is wrong , you should not defend the indefensible, the friends he has are not those you should want.

  • Denis,

    PresidentPutin has been fairly clear about his position as regards defence strategy. He considers the balance of power that existed during the Soviet Era as the ultimate guarantor of Russia’s security coupled with a sphere of influence that extends across former soviet counties such as the Ukraine, Romania, Baltic States, Georgia etc,. He also considers the development of an anti-missile defence system by the US as a grave threat to his homeland as it has the potential to effectively neutralise Russia’s nuclear missile capability.
    He cannot match American defense spending by developing his own anti-missile defense system. He is therefore focused on two means of replacing the existing nuclear deterrent – first the development of a new generation of missiles that cannot be intercepted as he announced earlier this month. And, secondly on the conduct of assymetric warfare i.e. where the old rules observed in the cold war era are no longer respected.
    We can’t know the motive for the attack on Skirpal,but we can assess the response from Russia to a request for an explanation of how a military grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union came to be used in an assasination attempt in Britain.
    The Russian state can choose to offer assistance or simply obfuscate and obstruct as they did in the Litvinenko case. It should come as no surprise in these circumstances that a British government would react by expelling known spies from the Russian embassy and imposing restrictions on the access of Russian government officials and their agents to Britain and its institutions.

  • Jayne mansfield 14th Mar '18 - 10:12pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,
    Lorenzo, I believe that before one acts one should have evidence. I am pleased to see that President Macron agrees.

    I am sorry that you are so dismissive of dialogue with those one fundamentally disagrees with, indeed, especially those that one fundamentally disagrees with. Issuing ultimatums to someone like Putin, especially before the facts are ascertained, does not seem to me to be the best way to proceed.

  • Denis Mollison 14th Mar '18 - 10:46pm

    Craig Murray has a well-informed sounding piece casting doubt on the British government story in two basic respects: (1) that they have identified the nerve agent as `Novichok’, and (2) that it can only have been made at the Russian Chem Warfare research lab (in Uzbekistan). He also says that the UK is refusing to submit a sample to the international Chem Warfare agency. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '18 - 11:27pm

    Jayne

    I am for dialogue, just not with people who might be murdering people in pizza restaurants…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar ’18 – 11:27pm…..Jayne, I am for dialogue, just not with people who might be murdering people in pizza restaurants…

    With people who MIGHT????? Surely, from your previous posts, you mean people who HAVE?

  • Denis,

    This report http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/what-is-novichok-russia-skripal_uk_5aa6b687e4b009b705d4fa68?utm_hp_ref=uk-news indicates that Novichok became notorious in the 1990s when a Soviet scientist called Vil Mirzayanov was put on trial for revealing its existence.

    The article goes on to state “Speaking to the British parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said Russia was known to have used Novichok before but she gave no more details.
    The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported one case of a Novichok agent being used in a criminal act in 1995 when assassins killed a businessman and his secretary by contaminating his telephone.
    The case, if confirmed, would add to questions about whether stocks of the chemical could have fallen into criminal hands via corrupt agents at the research institute during or after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Mirzayanov said he found it “unthinkable” that another country or non-state actor could have had access to the chemical weapon or the expertise to manufacture and deploy them. “Only Russia could do this,” he said.
    Other theories that could absolve Russian President Vladimir Putin of responsibility include rogue elements within the security sources carrying out the hit on Skripal without authorisation.”

    All the evidence around this case is circumstantial and will most likely remain so. The actions taken are not based only on this single incident but a pattern of covert behaviour since the Litvinenko case and the disdain with which the Russian state treats requests for explanations. Diplomatic relations have not been severed and the measures announced are designed to counter espionage and criminal activities being undertaken in the UK – whether that be the bringing of radioactive or dangerous chemicals to the UK, money-laundering or other illegal acts.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '18 - 4:06am

    expats

    My language is moderate when needed, as are my views, I do not like sweeping statements, but if or when I am briefed as a Privy Councillor, with evidence few other than the leader of the opposition gets, I shall be even more definite in my response than I am!

    We should not turn this into a tit for tt amongst colleagues. I am in support of the measured approach and decisive action so far by our party , Snp, many in the Labour party , Guy V in EU, US ambassador to un etc, all in support , a message that is all, to Russia, not scare mongering , not war.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Mar '18 - 9:09am

    The Skripal-case is diplomatically unpleasant, as it requires a weak and isolated UK to respond, and thereby display its global dependence and impotence. In substance, it is no big deal.

    To recap: Putin is the world’s king of thieves with estimates of his personal fortune approaching $100 Billion. To gain, protect, and enjoy that, he must stay in power. This necessitated the abolishment of the free press, opposition, democratic processes, an independent jurisdiction, and personal control of Russia’s only productive asset: energy. In the process, he has already imprisoned, killed, or otherwise removed numerous people, including UK residents and citizens.

    However, this was not enough to permanently pacify the 139 Million Russians who are being impoverished. Therfore, some nationalistic interventions, e.g. Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia, Syria… have become necessary to bolster Russian spirits. And there are plenty of additional targets available as required.

    So the only real theat left was a united front of the civilized world, formerly called the West. He quite effecitvely broke that up by bringing about Brexit, Trump, Orban, Zeman, etc. He is still working on AfD, Front National and some other populist movements around Europe.

    In this context, Sailsbury is a non-issue, just close to home. My interpretation of its timing is that he considers Brexit a done deal, and wants a pacifist Corbyn Government now. Given his track-record, his chances aren’t bad.

    He is still relatively young and does not have the option to leave office. So we are looking at another 20-30 years. He has the fossile fuels, and China will have the processing capacity. Both will continue to move west. Food for thought for everybody who wants “peace, diplomacy, no escalation, no war…”. The window for stopping them is closing quickly. We are still militarily stronger (with the US), and have one fading strategic advantage: we still control the geographies in which stolen riches can be safely stored and enjoyed. Only by stopping that will we turn Putin’s cronies against him (and they, too, have access to agents).

  • Jayne mansfield 15th Mar '18 - 9:18am

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,
    Where I disagree with you, is in the fact that this is not about your party, just as Brexit is not about your party.

    The reason why one first needs to ascertain facts regarding guilt before embarking on punishment is because many, including myself are well aware of the character of Putin and what he is capable of.

    Joe Burke mentions circumstantial evidence. Given that we are not simply sending a message to Putin, we are escalating an extremely dangerous situation and the tit for tat is likely to come from Putin, some of us are rather more cautious. A build up of hysteria by some media sources seems all too reminiscent of behaviour leading to other (in my opinion), ill judged actions in the recent past.

    Putin must have known that his past actions would lead to him being chief suspect. If he went ahead knowing this, I can only assume that the use of nerve gas to murder Britons on British soil was a conscious act of provocation. If so, what response was he trying to elicit?

    @ matt severn,
    ‘This forum is for Lib Dems , not St Petersburg sock puppets…..’

    I do apologise matt, I was under the impression that this forum welcomed comments from non Lib Dems provided that they followed the rules of politeness etc. Indeed that the editors even welcomed articles from non- Lib Dems if they were deemed to be of interest.

    Clearly I have got my facts wrong.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '18 - 9:28am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    Where does Germany get its supplies of gas from? So, reliable gas supplies or backing up the UK govt? Which way will that decision go for any future German govt? Is the UK being in the EU likely to make any difference?

    “He {Putin} quite effectively broke that up by bringing about Brexit, Trump, Orban, Zeman, etc. He is still working on AfD, Front National and some other populist movements around Europe.”

    Blimey, he must be good!

    So why is the EU, or the “West” if you prefer, making it all too easy for him by creating unnecessary problems for its own citizens by way of economic austerity. When the bad guys behind the wall were Communists and waved the Red Flag, the west demonstrated that it’s systems could be superior.

    So let’s get back to doing that and give Mr Putin a slightly more difficult task.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar ’18 – 4:06am………expats, My language is moderate when needed, as are my views, I do not like sweeping statements, but if or when I am briefed as a Privy Councillor, with evidence few other than the leader of the opposition gets, I shall be even more definite in my response than I am!
    We should not turn this into a tit for tt amongst colleagues. I am in support of the measured approach and decisive action so far by our party , Snp, many in the Labour party , Guy V in EU, US ambassador to un etc, all in support , a message that is all, to Russia, not scare mongering , not war……………

    Sorry, Lorenzo Cherin, but that is just gobbledygook..

    Putin is either ‘guilty beyond all reasonable doubt’ or not…You, and many others, have been applauding the immediate/precipitous action against Russia; when was the last time a sentence was passed on a ‘might have done it’ verdict?…

    Corbyn condemned the attack as, “An appalling act of violence” but asked that a proper international investigation be carried out by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague…..After all, even May suggested on Monday that an alternative possibility of Russian state having lost control of supplies of the nerve agent…..

    I am old enough to remember ‘certainties’, which turned out to be anything but, leading to escalation and many, many deaths…

  • “Boycott the world cup?”

    Ye, that suggestion is really going to get the ordinary man on the street on side with the party isn’t it….

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '18 - 12:34pm

    @ expats,

    You ask “when was the last time a sentence was passed on a ‘might have done it’ verdict”

    At the risk of slightly getting off the topic of Putin, I’d say this kind of verdict is fairly routine in our legal system. Colin Stagg wasn’t acquitted by a jury of the the murder of Rachel Nickel. The Judge, Mr Justice Ognall, to his everlasting credit, threw out the case for lack of evidence. We can’t know for sure just what the jury would have done had they been called on to decide, but I’d suggest that most jurors would have been so influenced by what they’d read about the case, in papers like the Daily Mail, that they would have convicted.

    That would have been on the basis he ‘might have done’ so ‘we aren’t going to take the risk of saying otherwise’. The real killer was later shown to be Robert Napper.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '18 - 1:25pm

    Expats

    If insults are your preference to a colleague here, me, but criticism of a leader not mine, or this party leader, Corbyn, are not your preference, why bother.

    I said might be murdering because they are not dead nor do I want them or anyone to be, in other words, stop questioning my language or motive or stance or any of it, it is unseen in this site, unnecessary.

    I am measured. I joined the Liberal Democrats from Labour because impressed with sir Ming and Charles Kennedy and a longstanding regard for Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins. I think some of Corbyn questioning appropriate in private briefings not circus in the commons when we want calm unity.

    Jayne

    I did not say it is and nor should I, about this or any party, it is being united in calm measured approach. For May to sabre rattle would be awful. She did’t, expelling diplomats is not war !!!!!

  • nvelope2003 15th Mar '18 - 2:28pm

    Mr Corbyn has every right to be cautious and ask awkward questions as this could avoid a bad mistake by the Government. The problem is that at a time when a foreign born national and his daughter appear to have been poisoned by the agents of one of the more brazen foreign leaders who has deliberately created situations which could have led to war, national unity is essential and Mr Corbyn’s entirely reasonable questions do not assist that. Of course the Conservatives will shout and scream and have done so but the Government also has the support of the SNP and apparently many, possibly most, Labour MPs. The latter of course supported the Iraq war and look where that got us.

    People have been convicted of murder, and in former times were hanged, on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Not many murders are committed with a policeman or anyone else looking on. All states do wicked things but the present Russian regime seems to be in a class of its own. Putin does these things because he is like the nasty boy at school who likes to snigger when the teacher or the nicer children are humiliated and does not care about the consequences. Yes Russia was treated badly when it abandoned Communism and had every right to expect Western support but Putin’s behaviour is just using that as an excuse to frighten people, including his own, to cling on to power.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar ’18 – 1:25pm….Expats…..If insults are your preference to a colleague here, me, but criticism of a leader not mine, or this party leader, Corbyn, are not your preference, why bother…..

    I didn’t intend any personal insult; my comment was about the contents of your post….If I misread your intention then I apologise but, in cases such as this ‘might be murdering people’ the ‘might’ usually refers to the perpetrator’s guilt, or otherwise’…Had you written ‘guilty of attempted murder’ that would have given, me at least, a completely different impression…

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '18 - 4:32pm

    With regard to Putin, it can be argued that power corrupts; but, as Lord Acton famously said; “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What affronts so many people about what appears to have happened in Salisbury is the brazen cheek exhibited of choosing your neighbour’s back yard to settle a family argument.

  • If Russia is the only place where such an agent can be found how did our scientists identify the strain so quickly? Samples for comparison must have been available; if at Porton Down where else in the world; USA, Israel?

    One thing is certain no investigation will be carried out that might cast doubt on Putin’s direct involvement…The die is cast and a ‘tit for tat’, that will help nobody, is now under way….
    When one considers that, a few days ago, there was no chance of dialogue between the USA and N. Korea and now, lo and behold, the two leaders will meet face to face…Today, it seems that, contrary to the old adage, ‘When one door opens another slams shut’!

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Mar '18 - 7:09pm

    JoeB
    The key reason why the Russian economy is not about to collapse is because national debt is only 19% of GDP whereas in Britain it is 83%. This why we have austerity in Britain while Russia has expanding social programmes, and large investments in key sectors such as robotics and big data. Another striking thing reported recently is the much better performance of Russia in getting women into science and engineering than us.
    There is much to criticise about Russia’s expansionist and paranoid foreign policy but we should not pretend it is some sort of hell hole for the average citizen, because the reality is that things have been getting steadily better, even if a few oligarchs have also got fabulously wealthy.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '18 - 7:24pm

    @ Andrew McCaig,

    “The key reason why the Russian economy is not about to collapse is because national debt is only 19% of GDP whereas in Britain it is 83%.” ???

    The Russian Govt’s National Debt is what everyone else wants to save in Rubles. If you buy Premium Bonds, or any other form of Govt bonds, you are creating National Debt. Obviously those savings are much less than would be expected for a country like the USA or UK.

    So would it make for a stronger or weaker Russian economy if the level of saving were higher?

    You think weaker. I’d say stronger.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Mar '18 - 7:26pm

    That was not a report from St. Petersburg, by the way, unless it has been transplanted to Yorkshire!

    On the topic of this thread, do we no longer believe in the rule of law, burden of proof, and “innocent until proven guilty”?? In the Litvinenko case there was a clear trail of CCTV, and polonium decay products leading to Moscow. Here the only evidence seems to be “we think you had some Novichok in the 1990’s so you must be guilty. Also you are guilty of some other things which we didn’t do much about at the time”

    I note that despite her rhetoric Theresa is not doing much this time either. Heaven forfend that BP or London-based oligarchs should feel any pain!

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Mar '18 - 7:32pm

    Peter Martin,
    The British economy sure does not feel very strong to me! My income has fallen by nearly 20% in real terms since 2008. A great deal of our debt came about because we decided to bail out a bunch of banks, as I recall.. And our interest payments on it are vast…

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Mar '18 - 7:39pm

    Expats,
    I suspect if the formula of Novichok is known I would imagine Porton Down are making it, like many other labs around the world, for “defensive purposes”. They freely admit they make nerve agents like VX to test protective gear.
    Incidentally a Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinriko manufactured 200 grams of VX in 1994 and attacked 3 people in Osaka. So much for “nerve agents can only be made in a government lab” And Novichok is apparently made by combining two relatively common and harmless chemicals…

  • nvelope2003 15th Mar '18 - 8:25pm

    The national media are not reporting all the news. Parts of a North Dorset town a few miles from Salisbury have been cordoned off and the Dorset police are unable to comment as the matter is in the hands of the Metropolitan Police. Something is going on.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '18 - 10:12pm

    @ Andrew McCaig, Most peoples’ incomes have fallen as a result of austerity economics. We’re still better off than most Russian people though. A low National Debt doesn’t correlate, on a world scale, with a productive economy. Japan has a Debt ration of 230% of GDP. It just means that Japanese people are big savers.

    I did have an email discussion with John Redwood on this topic a while back. I like to think I might have had some influence on his thinking. This from a recent post on his blog:

    I have not been worried about the state deficit for sometime, ever since Mr Brown found out that the UK state can literally print money to pay its bills. Mr Osborne, originally a critic of this in opposition, then discovered its charms in office as well. It turned out to have no adverse consequences on shop price inflation, though of course it caused massive price inflation in government bonds, because it was accompanied by severe pressure against bank lending to the private sector to avoid an inflationary blow off. I always adjust the outstanding debt by the £435 bn the state has bought up, as this is in no sense a debt we owe. So our government borrowing level (excluding future state pensions which some here worry about and which have always been pay as you go out of taxation) is modest by world standards at around 65% of GDP, and at current interest rates is affordable.

    Most of the state debt we owe to each other anyway. The government owes it to taxpayers who own the debt in their pension funds and insurance policies. The state can always raise enough money to pay the domestic bills backed by the huge powers to tax, and as we have just seen when credit expansion and inflation are low it can also use liquidity created by the monetary authorities

    So even a person with rightish political views can understand ( or mostly 🙂 ) all this if they just look at the problem in the right way. Although I wouldn’t agree with the term ‘printing money’. Except to say its all printed now that no gold or silver is involved in its creation.

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2018/03/05/the-twin-deficits/

  • Jayne mansfield 15th Mar '18 - 10:30pm

    Expats:-
    ” Corbyn condemned the attack as “an appaling act of violence, but asked that a proper international investigation be carried out by the organisation for the prevention of chemical weapons (OPCD) based in the Haig”.

    According to the Times , Mrs May now intends to do that because of doubt as to the culprit.

    I am somewhat surprised that I find myself as a defender of Jeremy Corbyn so often on here, but I think that pressure from Jeremy Corbyn has worked as effective opposition ought to work. One does not necessarily have to be in government to effect influence on government decisions .. as UKIP has so obviously demonstrated.

    @nvelope 2003,
    It is easy to hang onto one’s values when everything is going swell, it is when we are sorely tested that we find how how deep our values and principles are.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar '18 - 12:01am

    Expats

    Thanks for this, misread before, spur of the moment on either my or your part.

    My point is that some, you, Jayne, are seeing the response of Corbyn as a necessary alternative to a raising of some awful hostility by the government. In my view the response of the pm and our party colleagues, is necessary to show Putin we are appalled , yes, almost regardless of who did it. Of course we think rather than know, it was Putin directly or his intelligence people who did it, but the fact is he does great harm and to have this country in real danger as a result of this outrage means the reactuin must be tough and intimidating.

    But not a military response.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar '18 - 2:43am

    ps we think rather than know, because we are not on the privy council and those who see the evidence or are close to it , know!

  • Steve Trevethan 16th Mar '18 - 11:25am

    The evidence of the failure of HMG to prove Russia’s guilt lies in the joint statement issued yesterday by the UK, US, France and Germany.
    “This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type DEVELOPED IN RUSSIA, constitutes the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War”
    Please note the absence of references to “manufactured by” and “delivered by.”

  • Telegraph….Suitcase spy poisoning plot: nerve agent ‘was planted in luggage of Sergei Skripal’s daughter’They are working on the theory that the toxin was impregnated in an item of clothing or cosmetics or else in a gift that was opened in his house in Salisbury, meaning Miss Skripal was deliberately targeted to get at her father.

    About as unreliable a way to attack anyone as it is possible to imagine…’Impregnated’ in clothing that would only be released days afterwards? A gift that might/might not be opened by UK customs?

    Come back Ian Fleming..

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Mar '18 - 2:33pm

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

    We should be paying attention to this guy, not backing Mrs “Strong and Stable”. This is not about Putin and the way he does things. It is about MY COUNTRY and the way I expect US to do things

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Mar '18 - 2:40pm

    Peter,
    We certainly have more income than most Russian people. And if your measure of being better off is having Caribbean holidays then also we are better off. If it being able to feed yourself and your family and not have to rely on food banks, then probably not… Most Russian families own their home (they were given them after the Soviet Union fell), and there are big subsidies to childcare, free universities etc etc. Meanwhile it si always nice to live somewhere where most things are getting better (even from a very very low post-Soviet base), than somewhere where things only seem to get worse

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Mar '18 - 2:44pm

    Lorenzo
    ” means the reaction must be tough and intimidating.”

    But it isn’t though is it! Expelling a few diplomats is not going intimidate anyone! Withdrawing from the World Cup, arresting Russian oligarchs, BP disinvesting from Rosnest – those would be tougher actions. Theresa know the truth does not match her rhetoric, and it would not entirely surprise me if the Russians have not been tipped off that nothing much will happen, just lets shout at each other a bit to improve popularity on all sides…

  • nvelope2003 16th Mar '18 - 2:47pm

    Jayne Mansfield: I agree but I am not sure why your comment is directed at me. I was trying to explain why I was not impressed by the attempts to vilify Mr Corbyn or by the certainties on the Government side so what have I done wrong now. Sometimes I feel it is not possible to say anything on this site without incurring opposition. I wonder why ?

  • Peter Hirst 16th Mar '18 - 4:08pm

    What do you do about murder by foreign agents on national soil? We obviously wish to prosecute the alleged perpretrator in a local court as with the Lockerbie incident. If not, then reprisals must illustrate our value of any human life as well as acting as punishment and deterrent. The closer we can get to the identity of the offender, the easier this will become. Murder is murder whatever the political context.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Mar '18 - 6:04pm

    “Suspend arms sales to Russia” ??? Are there any? Did we not previously give them away?
    Do we want to continue with co-operation on the international space station?

  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '18 - 6:50pm

    @ Andrew Craig,

    I’m sure we can agree that it would be good if Russia improves its economy. If that happens, then Russian people will probably want to save more than they do currently. Germany may even decide to run an export surplus against the Russian Federation. This would mean they would have to accept Ruble securities in the same way as they currently accept £ and $ securities. Capital and Current accounts always have to balance.

    So the Russian National Debt would then naturally rise. It would be a good sign and not at all a problem.

  • @ Expats (16th @ 12:10 pm) – I saw that Telegraph article in Sainsburys.

    The headline is so certain, “nerve agent WAS planted in luggage of Sergei Skripal’s daughter”. Only reading a fair way down the article do we find it’s just the latest THEORY. [added emphasis].

    This is standard press propaganda. Lots of people won’t get past the headline and perhaps the first paragraph or two. Bury some actual facts a few paragraphs in, and many will never reach them. Of those that do a further percentage won’t penetrate the deceit. Job done; lots of people convinced – it must have been those dastardly Russians if it was done in Moscow.

    Before that the theory was that it was sprayed on the Skripal’s car door handle. Before that it was something else. Basically, they haven’t got a scooby doo – except of course that it was RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA! /sarc.

  • Peter Martin,

    with all due respect, I would imagine that those Russians that experienced the financial crisis of 1998 losing all their domestic savings would beg to differ with your economic advice.

    The OECD defines saving as the difference between disposable income plus the change in net equity of households in pension funds and final consumption expenditure. Saving therefore reflects the residual income used to acquire financial and non-financial assets. It’s important to note that disposable income does not include any capital gains or indeed losses, and so neither does saving. Net saving is equal to saving less depreciation.

    Russia has quite a high household savings ratio (circa 15% of GDP); runs a relatively small budget deficit and has maintained a modest current account surplus since the 1998 crisis.

    There is no direct relationship between household savings and government budget deficits/surpluses. There is a relationship (in the Keynesian economic framework) between the level of public and private sector investment and household savings.

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 9:19am

    @ JoeB,

    I was suggesting that as the Russian economy matures it’s likely that Russian people will want to save more. I’m not, though, offering advice to Russian people or anyone else on that point.

    You’re right that the crash of 1998 and the resulting loss of savings for many Russians dented their confidence in the ruble. So why would they want to save now? The Russian government didn’t need to default. They can’t ‘run out’ of rubles. The alternative would have been to let the ruble float earlier and perhaps put up with higher inflation for a time. Of course if the UK, or any other currency issuing government wants to default on its debt, then it too can have a very low, or even zero, debt to GDP ratio. Not to be recommended. IMO.

    We don’t need the OECD to understand surpluses and deficits. The Government’s deficit has to equal everyone else’s surplus. To the penny. If we divide up everyone else according to geographical location we get:

    Govt Deficit = UK Domestic Surplus + Foreign Surplus.
    Or
    Govt Deficit = UK Domestic Surplus + Current Account Deficit.

    I accept that we can define savings to not mean a surplus, and there are some grey areas over how the CAD is defined, for example, with respect to purchase of UK property by overseas residents but, in principle, this is how it is according to the principle of sectoral balances.

    The other grey area is the issuing of currency, which isn’t counted as Govt Debt, but as a liability of Govt I would argue it should be.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Mar '18 - 9:26am

    @ nvelope2003,
    I directed my comment to you because I agreed with your comment.

    I was simply musing on how easily some shed avered values and principles when the going gets tough, and instead make cheap shots when I would once have expected , but been disappointed, if the Liberal Party had not taken the taken the approach that Mr Corbyn has taken.

  • Peter,

    I am not sure what you mean when you say “there are some grey areas over how the CAD is defined, for example, with respect to purchase of UK property by overseas residents.”

    The UK does run a trade deficit with Russia but this is dwarfed by the massive capital investment by Russians in the UK – in property, trophy assets like football clubs and stakes in UK companies – more than balancing current account deficits with the country. Investments in UK government securities are a very minor part of such investment

    By defining “net saving” as (S-I) MMT confuses traditional economics which defines net saving as net disposable income less final consumption expenditure. When MMTers talk about “net financial assets” and “net saving” they are referring to financial savings net of domestic real investment by the private sector.
    It is not remotely close to representing household savings. By netting this huge quantity of private sector assets they are netting off the most important assets in the economy such as real estate, corporate stocks, corporate bonds, etc. When you depict “saving” in this sense you marginalize the two most important sources of private savings: Surplus from investment and the market value of existing assets.

    Russians have a comparatively high level of savings. The problem for the Russian economy is not lack of saving. It is lack of productive investment in the oil, gas and manufacturing industries exacerbated by the diversion of public funding to non-productive investment in maintaining and developing their military capacity.

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 2:54pm

    @ Joe B,

    The equations I mentioned were for any economy. I wasn’t referring particularly to economic transactions between the UK and Russia.

    There’s no confusion about (S-I). The term is well understood to be excess domestic savings. It’s not just us ‘lefties’ who think the sectoral balances are useful. They are used by hard headed financial analysts too, who appreciate their validity. And, yes, we do understand that ‘useful’ isn’t the same as saying that this is all there is to macro-economic theory.

    https://pro.creditwritedowns.com/2014/05/bubbles-fingers-instability-medium-term-view.html

    It’s easy enough to see how it all works if we consider a currency starting off from scratch. Say the government then spends 100 million ‘crowns’, just to give it a name, into the economy and gets 70 million back as taxes. Where is the other 30 million? That’s the deficit of course. Some of it , say 20 million, will be in the domestic economy and the rest will be held overseas.

    So 30million = 20 million + 10 million.

    You can play around with debts and deficits and add in international trade, as the years tick by, but this will always hold true. We have to include all Govt liabilities. Even 1p coins.

    The Americans don’t include their coinage in their National Debt. So if they create 20 x 1trillion coins then, hey presto!, no National Debt.

    It really doesn’t mean that of course. It does mean they need they need to fix up their accounting anomalies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trillion_dollar_coin

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 4:21pm
  • Peter,

    it is certainly the case if domestic savings are consistently lower than domestic investment, we will see a current account deficit in the balance of payments.

    A fall in savings means people are spending more (higher consumption) therefore, this would tend to suck in imports as we buy goods and services from abroad and domestic investment must be financed by capital inflows from abroad.

    A country like Japan has had a glut of saving over investment. This saving has tended to go abroad looking for more profitable investment. Therefore, Japan has had a deficit on capital flows, and a corresponding surplus on the current account.

    The US, by contrast, has often had a level of investment greater than savings. This has been financed by capital inflows and a current account deficit.

    Net income from abroad has turned negative in the UK as foreigners have acquired more UK assets than UK firms have acquired overseas (income from these assets will be sent abroad leading to negative net income from abroad.)

    The Current account (CA) is conventionally defined as (X-M) (value of exports – value of imports) + Net income from abroad.

    The current account is also equal to the difference between savings and investment. From an accounting perspective, it doesn’t make any difference whether we see the current account as
    1.Net exports + net investment incomes
    2.Savings – investment

    When domestic saving is insufficient to finance domestic investment, It will be financed by investment from abroad. These capital flows are a credit on the capital account and will be matched by a deficit on the current account.

    Conversely, if a country has excess savings, these savings will go abroad to finance investment in other countries. This will give a negative balance on the capital account, and enable a current account surplus.

    Excess domestic savings do not drive government budget deficits they merely find an alternative investment outlet overseas.

    Seigniorage derived from specie—metal coins—is income of the Royal mint in the UK.

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 5:00pm

    @ JoeB,

    “it is certainly the case if domestic savings are consistently lower than domestic investment, we will see a current account deficit in the balance of payments.”

    We’re talking about (S-I) being negative? So what about (G-T)? Doesn’t that have a bearing too?

    I’m not sure I follow your argument. You’d need to flesh it out in terms of the algebra in:

    (S – I) = (G – T) + (X – M)

  • Arnold Kiel 17th Mar '18 - 6:00pm

    What a civilized economic debate about the world’s leading murderer and thief! Putin and his gang extract wealth from Russia since 20 years, and safely store and enjoy it predominantly in the UK and its satellite tax havens.

    In order to uphold this, he has killed 10,000 people in Ukraine and made a significant contribution to 500,000 deaths in Syria, notably including bombing hospitals and other civilian facilities without any regard for civilian casualties.

    Why does the expulsion of bloody and dirty Russian money from the UK require definite proof of the poisining of just two individuals in the UK?

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 6:10pm

    @JoeB,

    I think I might see where you have it wrong. You’ve said:

    “Conversely, if a country has excess savings, these savings will go abroad”

    But the sectoral balances are derived from the National accounts. So if the savings go abroad and are converted to another currency they don’t count. If anyone has a number of pounds and they swap them for euros, someone else has to accept those pounds and decide whether to save them or spend them.

  • Peter,

    sectoral balances include net exports/imports. In a closed economy domestic savings are equal to investment. One you introduce an external sector, domestic savings are equal to domestic and overseas investment.
    For the world as a whole, current account balances must net to zero. So to must global savings equal global investments. i.e. net to zero.
    Using your restatement of Godley’s sectoral balance approach for the world as a whole:
    (S – I) = (G – T) + (X – M)
    If S-I =0 then (G – T) + (X – M) must equal 0.
    If X-M = 0, then G-T =0 i.e. collectively government budget deficits would have to balance across the world.
    You therefore appear to be saying that some countries must run a budget deficit for other countries to run a budget surplus – but (as for external balances) they must balance to zero across the world .

    How then do you explain the collective world deficits deficit of 2.6 trillion as per this summary for 2016 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_government_budget

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 8:23pm

    @ JoeB,

    I think all we can say about the world as whole is that M-X=0
    We don’t trade with Mars or anywhere else!
    So therefore (S-I) = (G-T)

    In other words a government surplus is the private sectors deficit and vice versa.

    But before we discuss the world maybe we can work out what it all means for the UK. World GDP is about $78 trillion. There’s obviously a fair bit of that which is undocumented in terms of cross border trade, for one reason or another, and which is why with have the discrepancy you mention. Not that it really matters. Trade and Budget deficits shouldn’t be too much of a worry for anyone. Inflation and the utilisation of available resources are what really should be considered important.

  • Peter Martin 17th Mar '18 - 8:45pm

    @ JoeB,

    You’re hooked on to the idea that (S-I) has to be zero in a closed economy? I think we need to think about that. If true it would mean that Governments could possibly run anything other than balanced budgets.

    Simon Wren Lewis discusses this as below.

    https://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/savings-equals-investment.html

  • Peter,

    as far as the world is concerned if G-T =$2.6 trillion in 2016 then S-I = $2.6 trillion i.e. about 3.3% of world GDP of $78 billion was invested in government securities during the year.

    Of the circa $300 trillion of world financial assets about 20% are invested in public debt securities, the remainder are private sector financial assets. It is the private sector that absorbs the great bulk of savings for investment and employs the great majority of the workforce.
    I do agree with your conclusion that Inflation and the utilisation of available resources are what really should be considered important.
    Involuntary unemployment arises from a dearth of private sector investment, as Keynes argued in the general theory:

    “When employment increases, aggregate real income is increased. The psychology of the community is such that when aggregate real income is increased aggregate consumption is increased, but not by so much as income. Hence employers. would make a loss if the whole of the increased employment were to be devoted to satisfying the increased demand for immediate consumption. Thus, to justify any given amount of employment there must be an amount of current investment sufficient to absorb the excess of total output over what the community chooses to consume when employment is at the given level. For unless there is this amount of investment, the receipts of the entrepreneurs will be less than is required to induce them to offer the given amount of employment. It follows, therefore, that, given what we shall call the community’s propensity to consume, the equilibrium level of employment, . . . will depend on the amount of current investment. The amount of current investment will depend, in turn, on what we shall call the inducement to invest; and [this] will . . . depend on the relation between the schedule of the marginal efficiency of capital and the complex of rates of interest.”

  • Richard Underhill 17th Mar '18 - 9:57pm

    I set up to record a programme about Vladimir Putin, but what I got was Ken Dodd, who had upstaged him. They are not the same you know.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Mar '18 - 10:18pm

    @ David Raw,
    ‘ Go away and shut up’

    Not you David.

    There is a good article in The Independent,

    ‘Top Cold War Diplomat criticises Williamson over Russia spy rhetoric’.

    Do Liberal Democrats have an opinion about those conservatives who are ‘ shooting their mouths off’, or is the party still suffering from Stockholm Syndrome ?

    It is not that I agree with Corby’s timing and clumsiness, but holy smoke, the predisposition of Liberal Democrats to pick up every misguided comment of Corbyn whilst ignoring utterly crass comments by conservatives says something important about where your party’s affections lie.

  • Gordon 16th Mar ’18 – 9:25pm…@ Expats (16th @ 12:10 pm) – I saw that Telegraph article in Sainsburys. The headline is so certain, “nerve agent WAS planted in luggage of Sergei Skripal’s daughter”. Only reading a fair way down the article do we find it’s just the latest THEORY. [added emphasis].

    Yes! In any other crime the police are expected to ask why and how the crime was committed…But not here..

    BTW..This will be my last post on LDV, at least until things change,,, My last few posts have been removed (one retrospectively)..It seems Russia isn’t the only place where to go gainst the party line, no matter how politely, is forbidden…,

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '18 - 6:44am

    @ JoeB,

    I think I misread your comment about $2.6 trillion. Sorry about that. I see what you are getting at. According to mainstream theory savings have to equal investment in a closed economy.

    Simon Wren-Lewis talks about that here:

    https://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/savings-equals-investment.html

    He has a rather long convoluted explanation as to the limitations on this idea, but he starts off with ” In the most simple model of a closed economy without government,….”
    Yes, sure, take away Government and S does have to equal I. That’s just trivial.

    But add it back in again and there’s no reason for it to. That’s really all he needs to be saying.

    I’m not sure if it’s straightforwards to distinguish private and public savings. If depositors place sums of money with a commercial bank and the commercial bank then buys Gvt bonds its really little or no different, in balance sheet terms, to the depositors buying the bonds for themselves.

  • Peter,

    bringing the conversation back to the Russia economy. The Rouble has been a free-floating currency since 2014. Initially, the country experienced high inflation, a sharp rise in the number of poor in Russia, a decline in real wages and incomes of the population, and reduced foreign travel and purchases of imported products by Russians.
    On the positive side Russian exporters (mainly the oil companies) benefitted, which due to the weak rouble and the tax system, were able to increase their revenues. This, in turn, compensated for the losses they suffered due to the drop in world energy prices. The current account balance has stabilised, and the capital account balance has improved.
    Unemployment in Russia is relatively stable at 5% and the budget deficit is quite manageable at 1.5%. Russia has a problem with international competitiveness with productivity being approx. a quarter of that in the US. Lack of investment is at the heart of the issue. The levels of poverty in areas outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg like the industrialised Urals are comparable to third world levels.
    Russia needs massive investment in productive capital and it cannot achieve this by simply running ever greater deficits – that will just repeat the economic conditions that existed in the soviet era. I think the Russian finance ministry understands this. It needs foreign direct investment in machine tools, robotics and its agribusiness sectors, that it can only get by normalising its international relations and political stability and developing its productivity levels and international competitiveness.

  • nvelope2003 18th Mar '18 - 4:27pm

    Jayne Mansfield: Sorry I misunderstood. One day the truth of this affair will come out, although I do understand why people are suspicious of Putin. He denied that the green uniformed men in Crimea were Russian troops but later boasted that they were. It is interesting how the peoples of Britain and Russia both seem to be behind their Governments on this. They cannot both be right, or maybe they can. Mrs May should have waited until after today’s presidential election in Russia to expel those diplomats. Putin would not have needed to be so harsh in response, unless of course the whole thing was a ruse to expel the British Council whose premises have been broken into despite a promise not to do so. He does not seem to like our way of life and democratic institutions.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '18 - 4:50pm

    Russia needs massive investment in productive capital and it cannot achieve this by simply running ever greater deficits

    I still think you don’t quite get it. Russia can’t easily choose to just run greater deficits. Deficits = Savings. Savings come from the Domestic private sector and from the net exporters – like Germany. But only if they choose to save their surplus in Rubles. All Russia can do is move its interest rates up and down, or adjust its monetary policy, if you like, to encourage more saving if it wants higher deficits.

    So the ability of any economy to run twin deficits is a good sign.

  • David Cooper 18th Mar '18 - 6:09pm

    @Jayne mansfield “The predisposition of Liberal Democrats to pick up every misguided comment of Corbyn whilst ignoring utterly crass comments by conservatives says something important about where your party’s affections lie”
    As an ex-Labour party memeber I have do a sneaking affection for Labour. So to see that Corbyn is no more than an overgrown six’th former preserved in aspic from the 1980’s, with ossified anti-western reflexes masquerading as “principles”, really disappoints me. If he came across Putin strangling children in an orphange, Corbyn would still want to ask what we had done to upset him before taking any action to stop him.

  • Peter,

    I understand what your are saying. I am saying it is wrong. Budget deficits do not equal savings. There is no real correlation between household savings ratio’s and budget deficits. Countries with low savings ratio’s such as the US and UK tend to run high deficits. Countries with high savings ratio’s such as Russia often run low budget deficits.
    There is a relationship between under-investment (or excess savings if you like) and deficits. There is also a relationship between current account deficits and budget deficits, but this is by no means a linear relationship. Only a part of the capital account that finances current account deficits is investment in government securities. The bulk capital account inflows are made up of private sector investments in real property and stock markets.
    Russia allocates a comparatively high proportion of its national income to defence spending. Income that could otherwise be allocated to investment in its oil and gas industries and improving the productivity of its workforce and consumer facing industries.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '18 - 7:29pm

    @ Joe B

    “Deficits are our saving”

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=10384

  • Peter,

    the current account deficit is financed by the Capital account (financial account in the UK). The capital account measures transfer in assets and liabilities. For example, an overseas firm building a factory in the UK. This is counted as a credit on the UK Capital Account. The Capital account can also involve the purchase of securities and liabilities, for example, a foreign Banker buying UK Government securities.
    If a country has a current account deficit and exchange rates are floating, it will have an equivalent capital account surplus. This is necessary to finance a current account deficit. The components of Financial Account include:

    Direct investment (eg building factories)
    Portfolio investment (saving money in pension funds/investment trusts)
    Financial derivatives (net) (CDOs, options e.t.c)
    Other investment (e.g. housing)
    Reserve assets

    You can describe this financing as savings if you wish (as MMT does) but it leads to misleading and inappropriate assumptions.
    Grouping households, firms and overseas governments into a single non-government sector and assuming capital accumulation by these sectors is equally beneficial regardless of the circumstances is also a misleading and inappropriate assumption.
    Misleading and inappropriate assumption lead in turn to wrongheaded policy prescriptions – the weakness with so much of heterodox economic analysis.
    The post-keynesian economic framework is a robust one, but the MMT insistence on consolidating savings and investment, central bank and treasury operations, firms and households obscure the important stocks and flows in the economy unnecessarily.
    There are times to run historically high deficits and times to reduce deficits. In obscuring these economic relationships, the MMT framework does not provide the tools required for the effective management of fiscal and monetary policy over the course of the business cycle.

  • Peter Martin 19th Mar '18 - 9:17am

    @ Joe B,

    I do, of course, agree that the current and capital accounts have to balance with a floating currency. If there’s a tendency for them not to, the exchange rate will vary to bring them back into balance. That’s why economic austerity is counterproductive unless it is aimed at cooling an overheated economy. A current account deficit, very probably, needs the government to deficit spend to maintain the flow of money in the economy.

    An overseas firm building a factory in the UK, with the consequent spending, does as you say count towards the capital account. Whereas a tourist spending money on hotels etc doesn’t, even if that money is then funnelled back into more hotel building. I’m not sure that is intellectually consistent, but nevertheless it doesn’t really matter. The Government’s spending and taxation policies should only be influenced by the need to meet inflation targets on the one hand and the need to keep the economy functioning close to full capacity on the other.

    “Misleading and inappropriate assumption lead in turn to wrongheaded policy prescriptions”.

    Sure, they do! That’s why the economies of the UK and EU are in such a mess! That in turn, is why we’ve had a vote for Brexit. If Governments in the UK and the EU had followed MMT advice since 2008 we’d be in very different world, and a world much more to the liking of Lib Dems!

  • Peter Martin,

    as to whether “If Governments in the UK and the EU had followed MMT advice since 2008 we’d be in very different world, and a world much more to the liking of Lib Dems!”
    Maybe, but it is a counter-factual. We have to look at the real world impact of policies adopted in the 1970’s to see what the likely outcome is.
    When Russia moved from a managed float to a free float in 2014 the economy initially nose-dived. Although it has recovered an element of stability now, living standards have still declined.
    This is the crux of the matter. If, like the Euro countries, you are in a currency union borrowings have to be repaid in hard currency. Greece is an example of over-reliance on borrowings that you cannot service. If like Russia to 2014 you operate a managed float against the dollar you are reliant on export earnings (oil prices in Russia’s case) to maintain dollar reserves. With a free float currency, lack of competitiveness results in depreciation of the currency over-time as we have seen with sterling (rather than the kind of internal devaluation that Greece has experienced). The end result, however, is the same – stagnant earnings and decreased living standards.
    We have seen significant inflation since 2008 (against a backdrop of stagnant earnings) not least in the Housing market. CPIH https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/timeseries/l55o/mm23reflects this more accurately than CP1 and has ranged from 4.8% in 2008 to 2.7% currently.

  • @Arnold Kiel – Why does the expulsion of bloody and dirty Russian money from the UK require definite proof of the poisining of just two individuals in the UK?

    An answer, but not the one you are looking for: I suspect the poisoning of two individuals will result in a law that will permit the expulsion of bloody and dirty Russian money from the UK and if we seize the moment, also from the EU…

  • Peter Martin 19th Mar '18 - 2:57pm

    @ JoeB,

    One of the tenets of MMT is that currencies should float and countries should not borrow in a foreign currency. If the Russians had followed that advice earlier they too would be in a better economic position now. The Russians don’t need dollars and they don’t need euros. If we want to buy something from Russia, the Russian suppliers need rubles to pay their own bills. The forex market swaps euros, or whatever, for rubles. If Russia wants to buy something from abroad they pay in rubles and the forex markets swap the rubles for euros or dollars.

    Greece isn’t in the same position. It uses the euro which is someone else’s currency.

  • Peter,

    this is what happens in practice https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/russias-reserve-fund-ceases-to-exist-60157. Russia builds up dollar reserves when oil prices are high and uses those reserves to support its fiscal budget when oil prices are low. Saudi Arabia fixes the Saudi riyal against the US dollar and has a similiar policy of depleting reserves to support its fiscal budget https://www.yemenpress.org/world/why-did-saudi-arabia-lose-one-third-of-its-foreign-exchange-reserves.html
    Chile is another example where dollar earnings from Copper exports are managed in a sovereign wealth reserve fund to support the fiscal budget during periods of low commodity demand. Venezuela took the opposite approach to fiscal management (adopting the mantra of deficits don’t matter) collapsing its economy along the way.

  • Peter Martin 19th Mar '18 - 6:19pm

    @JoeB,

    Venezuela eh? Well any country that is over reliant on a single commodity, like oil, is going to get into trouble if it gets its price forecasting wrong. Who’s to know when prices are high and when they’re low?

    Russia is a big enough economy to be able to hedge its bets. Maybe not so much smaller economies like Australia. When the price of iron ore and coal is high, the Australian dollar soars on the forex markets. Its manufacturing sector is then internationally uncompetititive and much of local domestic industry can then be effectively closed down by the pressure of cheap imports. Later, if commodity prices fall, domestic industry could be then in a position to resume production and be competitive once again. But if they have already been allowed to close down they aren’t in a position to take up the slack.

    So, rather than hoarding dollars, a better strategy for smaller companies is to intervene on the forex markets to prevent too much variation in their currencies. If need be, an export tax can be applied to commodity exports.

  • Peter, I think intervention in the currency market to prevent rapid Rouble appreciation is one of the objectives of Russia’s dollar reserve strategy.
    Here in the UK we are going to need a focus on public investment and structural reforms. There has been a great deal of focus on austerity, but when you look at the numbers at the macroeconomic level, public expenditure and tax receipts today as a % of GDP are about the same as they were under the Labour government immediately prior to the financial crisis and unlikely to change much as a proportion of national income.
    Debt service is not an immediate problem at the current level of bond yields but could become problematic if international interest rates rise quickly.
    Household debt has been increasing and returned to the pre-crisis levels. With unemployment at relatively low levels in a service orientated economy, there is not a great deal of scope for fiscal stimulus over and beyond the current levels of deficit financing and no scope for further monetary stimulus.
    A shift in the incidence of taxation towards land and wealth would be my preferred approach with a view to increasing the disposable income of lower income households and tenants. A tax shift to relieve the deadweight of taxes on incomes coupled with a significant increase in investment in public housing and infrastructure may just provide the boost to disposable incomes where it is needed to get economic growth back to pre-crisis trend levels.

  • Peter Martin 19th Mar '18 - 8:02pm

    I agree that the level of private debt is too high. If the UK, as a whole, running a deficit then someone in the UK has to borrow to finance it. The strategy of previous Govts has been to push the borrowing on to the private sector or household debt if you prefer. Steve Keen has banging on about this for some time And explains why it was private debt which caused the GFC of 2008:

  • Peter Martin,

    I have read Steve Keen’s book ‘Debunking Economics’ (even the technical bits in the appendix(. He makes a lot of sense, although I am not sure about the poliitical pragmistism of a debt jubilee.

    I think he may (like me) be somewhat critical of MMT’s rather relaxed view to current account deficts and their financing, where he thinks the indifference is due to a US centric view.

  • Peter Martin 20th Mar '18 - 1:36pm

    @ JoeB, Steve Keen wrote “Debunking Economics” quite a few years ago and he has moved closer to MMT since then. He’s conceded that MMTs ideas on double entry bookkeeping are superior to his own previous single entry approach.

    I understand both sides of the argument re current account deficits. In a way both Steve and MMT are right. The MMT guys say that the currency should float. The economy should be controlled by fiscal measures and the twin deficits should float too.

    Steve would say that trade should be kept closer in balance which also keeps both deficits closer into balance. This does also mean that the exchange rate can’t be allowed to freely float IMO. Both Steve and the MMT group would agree that it’s counterproductive to try to control either deficit with the application of austerity economics.

    I’ll ask him in more detail when I catch up with him again. We’ve got him as our guest speaker at a fringe meeting of this years Lab conference in Liverpool.

  • nvelope2003 20th Mar '18 - 6:14pm

    As usual there are no answers to the really hard questions and you wonder why only 7% vote Liberal Democrat.

  • nvelope2003,

    “It is interesting how the peoples of Britain and Russia both seem to be behind their Governments on this. They cannot both be right, or maybe they can.”

    They can.From the British persepective this is a pattern of behaviour by the Putin regime that has culminated in this incident on British soil. The Russian state owes an explanation to the UK, but has deemed to adopt an aggressive response when diplomacy was called for.
    In Russia, Putin is a popular leader and there appears to be little sympathy for the suffering of a defector from their country.
    All we can reasonably expect is that the political leaders conduct themselves in a statesmanlike manner and let the British investigators and judicial process follow its customary rigour in determining culpability in due course. Based on the Litvinenko case, it is unlikely that we will see any cooperation from Russian authorities in bringing prosecutions.

  • David Evans 20th Mar '18 - 8:59pm

    I worry when JoeB says things like “and let the British investigators and judicial process follow its customary rigour in determining culpability in due course.” In due course like in the case of Hillborough, James Saville, David Kelly or all the cases where the Police failed to disclose evidence to the defence team?

  • @ David Evans Not forgetting the execution of Timothy Evans (and the great campaign led by our own Ludovic Kennedy to clear his name) – the Birmingham Six cleared after a great campaign by Chris Mullin MP, and of course Orgreave of which we have not heard a peep from a former candidate for Police Commissioner in South Yorkshire not unknown to readers of LDV.

  • David Raw,

    The last words that Timothy Evans was purported to have said to both his mother and sister were: ‘Christie done it’.

    Let’s hope that Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia can be nursed back to health and are able to give their account of what happened to them.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Mar '18 - 6:01pm

    In the UK the police and courts act on the basis of procedure. They are not generally interested in the facts of the case or whether an individual is guilty or innocent. If an offence has been committed then someone must have done it and if the wrong person is found guilty that is less relevant than the belief that an example has been made in order to deter others – remember Admiral Byng shot on his quarter deck to make an example to others. I have had to attend court proceedings and I found it a most depressing experience as the court officials seemed to have no interest in the fate of those whose reputation would be ruined by the proceedings. It was all in a day’s work.

    Do not be misled by film and TV court scenes. The real courts are nothing like that at all.

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