Looking at the long lead-up to New Zealand's increasingly curious stance on Russia, the government seems to be wasting diplomatic capital at a time it should be storing it up against future need

It's been done so casually and with such a carefree shrug, that it's easy to miss what a significant choice it seems to be. It's like coming home on Valentines without flowers and saying 'but all the flower shops were closed'. Or not handing in your homework because you lost the textbook. But the government's decision not to act against Russia in unison with allies in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia is a remarkable diplomatic decision.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, his daughter Yulia, 33, were found poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4 and Britain, with widespread support, has blamed the attack on Russia. As of today, 27 countries, and now NATO, have acted with unprecedented unity to send a clear message to the Kremlin that it can't go around other countries killing people it doesn't like. Or, as Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said, such acts have "costs and consequences".

Yet not in New Zealand, it seems. No costs or consequences here. Jacinda Ardern made the remarkable statement yesterday that she would have expelled any "undeclared" Russian intelligence agents in New Zealand, but "there are no individuals here in New Zealand who fit this profile". It brings to mind Blam Blam Blam's 'There is no depression in New Zealand'. Just add the new verse, "there are no spies in our embassies".

Oh, we've called in the Russian ambassador for a few carefully chosen words and said we would have taken a tough stance if we could have. I mean, we wanted to help but – you won't believe this – we couldn't find any "undeclared" spies.

In other words, the dog at my homework. 

As security consultant Paul Buchanan told RNZ, it's a very curious position to take. Three of the eight Russian diplomats in New Zealand are attaches, he pointed out. Even if they are not Russian James Bonds, attaches are widely known as collectors of intelligence. Yet in the face of the first use of a nerve agent on the streets of Europe since World War II and the largest coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats in history, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and officials shrug and say they can't find anyone to kick out. 

It's surprising we have not expelled anyone, when even Moldova and Albania have found people to send home. Even Belgium have decided to expel one diplomat, having earlier said it might not because it was home to both the EU and NATO. Iceland, like us, has decided not to expel anyone, but they have cancelled meetings with Russian diplomats and officials and its ministers are boycotting the World Cup in Russia this summer.

So why is New Zealand so out of step?

Well, not all European countries have signed on. Austria, Greece and Portugal, for example, are refusing to act. We do have some countries taking a similarly neutral stance.

But for observers in this country, the decision comes in the context of Foreign Minister Winston Peters' long-running sympathy for Russia. While it has only been highlighted recently, his stance on Russia dates back to at least 2015. Then, he saw the chance to win support amongst rural voters by pushing for a trade deal with Russia on behalf of "struggling Kiwi farmers". This was in the wake of Russia sending troops into Crimea and Ukraine and banning the import of goods from the EU. 

Peters urged the Key government to use the opportunity to sell some milk and lamb. It all got very odd, because Peters (who voted again the NZ-China FTA and helped orchestrate a refresh of relations with the US when he was last foreign minister) argued that the time we shouldn't take sides with "Uncle Sam". Seeing the potential of a new Cold War (and given recent events, you could argue he was far-sighted in pointing that out), he argued for more engagement with Russia. Then, like now, it would have been a slight to our traditional allies, but pushed the line repeatedly.

At the same time, John Key and Tim Groser, usually trade deal obsessives, shut down our talks with Russia and insisted Vladimir Putin was a threat to the world. While we kept trading with Russia, Key insisted our allies "can see that we’re not going out there overly exploiting opportunities". (Peters dismissed our support for our allies' sanctions as a "golf course arrangement" of little meaning and pointed out that even Ukraine had increased its exports to Russia after the fighting).

In what was I think an under-reported story at the time, Key admitted to going to Fonterra and telling them - a private company - to not fill the void in Russian imports because it would be "a terrible look". He told the company exploiting the trade bans and sanctions was not in the "long-term interests" of either it or New Zealand.

This flared back into life when New Zealand First curiously put its desire to re-open tradde deal negotiations with Russia in its coalition agreement with Labour, and then in the real politik interview Peters did on Newshub Nation a couple of weeks ago. 

In that, Peters again refused to take the opportunity to see Putin's Russia as a threat and to vociferously stand beside Britain. Instead, he danced in the head of a pin about whether we were sure Russia had actually been involved in the shooting down of the passenger airliner MH17.

Whether or not we are seeing the emergence of a new Peters Doctrine is moot. We shall have to wait to see. But it's curious that Labour has been dragged into this line of thinking.

It may be that Ardern & Co have an instinctive willingness to not necessarily fall in behind the great powers of the West. But is this really the time? Given the personal;ities in charge of what can be loosely called the West - especially President Donald Trump - there may well be a time quite soon when we want to play an independent hand. There may soon be issues where we want to stand apart from the US and other Western (or Five Eyes) allies on issues of real importance.

So why waste your card playing it now? Why raise the eyebrows - and perhaps the ire - of our traditional friends over this case? New Zealand bases its foreign policy on the international rule of law, so when there is a global consensus that Russia has blatantly and murderously broken those rules, why would we not rush to stand alongside those protesting such an action? Surely this is an opportunity to earn show some solidarity with Britain, the US and others, given that down the track we may want to spend some diplomatic capital distancing ourselves from them.

It seems a careless, overly casual and unnecessary waste of diplomatic capital; one I suspect this government will soon regret.

Comments (30)

by on March 28, 2018

Well then obviously we must nuke Russia from orbit. It's the only way to be sure they committed a war crime on UK soil because popular opinion says "Russia did it!!!" based on a hand written stamens from Theresa May. Promise it's not like the last time the U.K invented evidence of a war crime. 

But honestly, what the fuck do you expect to do? Isn't there already sanctions after Ukraine. We could try to drive oil prices further underground, but that also hurts our energy needs. The real solution is not to have offshore bank accounts to evade your taxes and not do a lot of other shady shit. Or if you absolutely positively have to sanction Russia, seize there bank accounts so you've got a bargaining chip for latter.

In future elections, expect an increase to cyber security, though I expect some lazy ass will demand admin privileges to everything and end up getting keylogged after clicking on some Russia clickbait on nudy pics of one of Trumps mistresses.


by James Green on March 28, 2018
James Green

I'm sure there are dozens of spies in Moldova give it is the next most likely country to have territory (Transnistria) annexed by Russia. Both Albania and Russia are riddled with Mafia, so I find nothing surprising there about being able to find diplomats to expel. Iceland has about the same population as Christchurch. Austria has long been a place of official neutrality between Russia and NATO. Greece have been friendly with Russia for some time now, so no surprise there either.

Only Portugal is surprising to me, they did recently get their man into the UN secutary-general position, which needed to get past a Russian veto, but that doesn't seem enough to me.

New Zealand might be even more out of step than you suggest.

by on March 28, 2018

Being a true believer is a bad attitude to have. True Believers can definitely make out creepy and most convincing Putin mafia. When May is so lost in Boris Johnson's wonderful words of wisdom they then lack self-awareness and think they're actually doing the right thing, when they want there followers to drink the Don Brash kool-aid because they really believe there's a fate worse than a Russian nuclear counter strike or simply turning the gas switch off, it's both tragic and amazing.

by Andrew Geddis on March 28, 2018
Andrew Geddis

With respect, Tim, this is a bit all over the place. You say that NZ has called in the Russian Ambassador for a ticking off and made it clear we would expel any "undeclared intelligence officers" in NZ (which is all that Australia/Canada/the USA has done - our 5-eyes colleagues). But then you say we've done nothing at all on the issue because we want to be neutral, just like Austria, Greece and Portugal. Which is it?

And what exactly are you suggesting be done here - that NZ should just deem one of the three Russian attaches to be an "undeclared intelligence officer" (a term that has a precise meaning - it's not just someone who reads papers/chats to folk at cocktail parties/monitors twitter and then passes his or her observations back home ... it's a person who is a formal member of the state's intelligence services and whose job is to covertly gather non-public information)? That the Government should tell the NZSIS "find us a spy ... by any means necessary"? That the Government should lie to us and say "the Russians have actual spies in the country - but we got rid of them!!!" 

Because in international affairs, expelling an "undeclared intelligence officer" is a lower level action than expelling a diplomat proper - so if you're saying "we should kick out someone from the embassy so we're seen to be doing something", you're actually advocating NZ take a much stronger and stricter stance on the issue than our fellow 5-eyers have done. And why should NZ be in the vanguard on this issue (as opposed to being a supportive member of the peloton)?

I tweeted earlier today that I think much of the outrage over this issue is displaced angst that we're actually just not important enough to be spied on. And I also think the demands to do something more is a misplaced desire to be seen as a real player in international affairs, rather than the small and rather peripheral country that we are. So why not just accept that (1) Russia doesn't care enough about us to send real spies ("undeclared intelligence officers") down here; and (2) this means we can't take the form of action that our fellow global citizens have deemed to be the appropriate response to the Russian behaviour in the UK. Sometimes dogs really do chew up loose paper left lying around on low lying tables.

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Sam, that's a bit of a leap to the extreme. I'm simply suggesting we line up with a broad global consensus and act in accordance with 27 other countries. If this is yellowcake and WMD all over again, I'll admit I'm wrong. But as things stand I don't see it. Are you arguing someone else attempted to murder these people?

When we see someone breaking international rules, NZ usually reacts. I'm simply arguing for consistency.

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Well, Andrew, I admit it was written early in the morning! And maybe we disagree. But I'm not buying that it's all over the place. The line I'm seeking is a consistent reaction to a country that looks to have acted unilaterally to murder people in another sovereign nation. Are you satisfied with the response NZ has made, given the context of what others have done? Where's our great, 'mouse that roared' UN-founding tradition of standing against great powers getting away with this kind of stuff?

That's not a matter of wishing we were more important, it's a) hoping we are prepared to take a stand on principle and b) wishing we are smart enough to pick our diplomatic battles wisely.

I didn't say we want to be neutral; in the interest of balance I was just pointing out that a few European countries had not followed Britain's request. I certainly don't agree with you, that in the world of international relations people will be looking at NZ's actions and saying we've done as much as Canada and others. 

Amabassadors get called in for all kinds of reasons, but it's certainly a lesser reaction than expelling someone. So no, we've not done as much. And remember, Britain has been in direct contact with NZ asking for cooperation. It seems, frankly, bloody odd and inconsistent with our rules-based approach to foreign affairs that we have not done more. 

I'm not as convinced as you are that Russia does not have intelligence officers in this country. People who know more than thee and me seem to be sceptical and surely everything we've learned about spying and Five Eyes in the past decade means it would be remarkable that we weren't subject to some scrutiny. But regardless, New Zealand could have reacted more in line with the 27 others without lying. That as the point of the Iceland example... we could have been creative about sending a stronger signal so that we were not seen to be at odds with the UK et al.

Or, as Alexander Gillespie has written:

The explanation that New Zealand is not expelling even a single Russian diplomat because we have no undeclared Russian intelligence officers in New Zealand does not make sense on two grounds. 

First, it assumes that New Zealand’s Intelligence community has a perfect understanding of what the Russian diplomats are doing, which is unlikely.

Second, the 22 other countries have not expelled Russian diplomats because they suddenly discovered they had undeclared spies working on their territory - they are showing solidarity with Britain.

This is not about uncovering spies. This is about making a statement of what is unacceptable behaviour between countries in the 21st century.

by on March 28, 2018

Why yes. I do believe some one else might have done it. But with out further evidence I have nothing concrete to base that belief on.

First off I am not a chemical warfare specialist. Just average knowledge of toxicology. To be able to report accurately the chain of events you have to be able to describe the different ways neurotoxic molecules react with human biology. Rather than rely on speculation, appeals to emotion and any other logical fallacy that fit popular opinion.

Two main points:

1) If Skripals and officer Bailey are indeed affected by the nerve agent, and are in hospital or any other treatment facility, then why has there has been no photo evidence of them really being there? Same with their diagnoses and afflictions. I mean, we can see photos of other people, like Litvinenko, why not them?

2) If Skripals were indeed poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent, why are they still alive? I mean, even the US Army rules state, that you have to immediately get an antidote, or you will die within 5-10 minutes. Yet, they were found around 30-40 minutes after leaving the restaurant, and I’m sure the responding officers and doctors wouldn’t have any antidote for nerve agents on them (at least in peacetime). Even the scientist that developed the Novichok family of nerve agents says death is certain, it’s also claimed that one blood sample can be analysed to discover its chemical passport and identify the person or facility that manufactured the nerve agent: https://t.co/MgoWobbr90

Lastly Putin and his advisors will be scrambling to replace embassy staff. They do not really matter in the grand scheme of things. Hell, their role is, in good part, to be expulsed. There are still legitimate question that are left unanswered which could be easily answered by routine tests. But for political reasons are left unanswered. It's the MH17 of spreading multiple conspiracies so that no one can no the truth. Until I start seeing simple answers to these simple questions I might change my mind.

by Andrew Geddis on March 28, 2018
Andrew Geddis


The problem with your "we have to do something" position is that you immediately opt for a greater response than any of our comparator allies, to wit:

"It's surprising we have not expelled anyone, when even Moldova and Albania have found people to send home."  

Because there are three possibilities on the "Russian spies in NZ" situation:

(1) There aren't any here ... but people seem unprepared to accept this because Russia must have them and we must be important enough to have them. Whatever - if people want to think this then literally nothing will work to dissuade them.

(2) There are some ... but the NZSIS doesn't know who they are. Fine - boo-sucks to the NZSIS for their incompetence, I guess. But then what? We randomly expel someone who may or may not be a spy? How many someones? One? All three? Because Australia, with 25 million people, expelled just 2 folk ... so perhaps we should expel only 0.19 of one to be proportionate? And what do we call the expellee ... "an assumed undeclared intelligence officer we've picked because we don't know who else to kick out but someone has to go or there'll be funny articles about us in the overseas press"? That isn't how diplomacy works.

(3) There are some spies and we know who they are but the Government has lied and said there aren't any because Winston likes Russia for some reason. This, with respect, is getting into tin-foil hat territory and would leak into the media within hours.

So I'd be interested in you developing your Iceland analogy - what exactly do we do with Russia that would allow us to cancel meetings? We're not off to the world cup anyway, so can't boycott that. We've already got embargoes on Russia and no FTA moves (despite Winston's wishing) to suspend. So ... aside from saying "we stand alongside our allies and would do exactly what they've done if circumstances permitted", we should ... ???

Because - last thing! "Picking a diplomatic battle" would be getting out in front of our allies in a kind of "Where she goeswe go. Where she stands, we stand." attitude. Is there any actual evidence that not expelling spies (because we haven't got any) has created any problems at a diplomatic (as opposed to a laughing at us in the press( level?

by Lee Churchman on March 28, 2018
Lee Churchman

This is not about uncovering spies. This is about making a statement of what is unacceptable behaviour between countries in the 21st century.

Like invading a country under false pretences, which has caused anarchy and destruction to rage across the Middle East for over a decade? How about electing an orangutan to be the commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military?

And Israel has a habit of invading other countries and conducting assassinations, but we don’t hear much about that. 

NZ should be neutral. We don’t need to take sides. 

by barry on March 28, 2018

Yes, and of course we should support the UK they way they did us the last time a foreign intelligence agency killed someone in NZ.

It does seem that the world club of schoolboys is lining up to bully an (admittedly unpleasant and obnoxious) outcast.  ..and our family are asking why we didn't join them even though we were home sick at the time.

by Tom Semmens on March 28, 2018
Tom Semmens

When the British crack down on Russia's kelpocratic oligarchs laundering their billions through the city of London, then we should consider giving the chance of an FTA with Russia.

Otherwise, the British can take a running jump off the cliff for all I care.

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Andrew, not sure if you heard this interview but I don't think the British High Commissioner could have been less impressed with our stance on Russia, even before this decision. I think it's very clear that we have not matched our allies and that is undoubtedly noted in the diplomatic world.

I think you're misrepresenting my position - that we must wildly do something/anything and can just throw a dart at a random official. 

I think any suggestion that diplomatic protests are done on a per population basis is nonsense. Most countries have expelled one Russian, regardless of their population. We could easily have done the same. Because that's exactly how diplomay works. Otherwise you are seen to be showing sympathy.

Or, we could have looked for another stronger response. I confess I don't know what that is, but there are many good minds at MFAT who could find a way for us to have been proportionate. But we haven't been. Which comes back to my question. Are you really happy with NZ doing less than our allies on this? I get you don't want us to do more, but where is our diplomatic signal that this is beyond the pale and we are committed to the rule of law? 

Don't you think doing less on this than a country such as Albania is at odds with our long held commitment to a rules-based global order?

I'm genuinely surprised at how nonchalant people, including the commenters here on Pundit, are at what Russia's up to globally at the moment.




by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Lee, barry and Tom, you're all seeming to argue that two wrongs make a right.

I mean, we hear complaints about Israel's stance all the time. If you're opposed to Israel doing it and would like NZ to take a stand on that, why not hold Russia to the same standard? Because Britain were horribly, fatally wrong about Iraq or are hypocritical about oligarchs or the Rainbow Warrior, somehow we should abandon our principles or turn away when people are poisoned going about their daily lives?

Aren't we better than that? 

by Tom Semmens on March 28, 2018
Tom Semmens

"...Aren't we better than that..?"

I think we need to calibrate our response to one that suits us, not the cultural cringe hangover of a response that says we are still needy and just want a pat on the head from a Pom with a BBC accent. 

Whatever you think of the Salisbury incident, in context for NZ's foreign diplomacy no NZ citizens were hurt, it occurred in a small town in a foreign country 18,000km away in the northern hemisphere, and is between two European powers over something of no vital interest to us. As such, our response has been calibrated to indicate we think what happened isn't very good and is highly regrettable, but we are not going to let it stop an FTA with Russia.

Seems reasonable to me.

As regards Israel, it's illegal occupation of the West Bank is in violation of the UN, results in dozens of deaths annually and is very destabilising. Since we have no vital interests in the middle east, we can afford to take the moral high ground.

by Lee Churchman on March 28, 2018
Lee Churchman


I wasn’t arguing that. My view is more that the world is changing, and people who were our allies probably shouldn‘t be—at least not as much. Britain and to a lesser extent the USA have become weak and less democratic. The Brits in particular are completely deluded about their country’s international standing. Worse, their foreign policy elites are incompetent. It’s better, I think, if we hang back a bit. It’s not clear what’s going to happen. 

by on March 28, 2018

I presume we are all kiwis here. The kiwi attitude should give a healthy dose of skepticism of any foreigner telling us what to do. It's taken decades to repair the ANZUS treaty relationship after our largest ally the U.S was told they couldn't park there glass boats here any more. Never the less I hope no one agrees nuclear weapons is a good thing. How ever since the No Nukes policy New Zealanders now ask that it shouldn't take decades to repair foreign relationships while we still have a big hang over from this foreign affairs transgression to the point that all facets in the governments tool box is so underfunded any contributions to regional and economic security has been increasingly viewed by any who requests New Zealand's assistance as a liability. Officials have issues with NZFD having funding and sustainment and the problem of New Zealand agriculture undercutting our allies food security.

As a result of the transgressions of the past thirty years our responses to foreign requests will be different in the next 30 years as amongst other things NZDF procurement processes is reevaluated as they seek to implement FLOC (Future Land Operating Concept 2035) including expertise around areas affected by chemical and biological argents, which is an art that has sadly been lost in the NZDF funding purges. The standard for delivering new capabilities into standard operating procedure is 10 years, plus 7 years to gather resources, 17 years should be plenty of time to fully restore all facets of new Zealand's diplomatic tool box by 2035. At the same time we must increase our reach and speed with which we can provide assistance to our allies. And this must be delivered in record time so that we never again yield our economic and political sovereignty to the battle of the hair pieces.

We must learn from our past failures when we think that New Zealand was once China's number one trading partner to today we've slipped down to 9th largest by value. And when you think about foreign policy and the press statements that are derived and whom that was informed by. By no means does the $20bln NZDF recapitalisation programme mean we'll be buying all of the latest gizmos. But the foreign ministry will have a deep understanding of the common range of capabilities across the whole of government and an inherent resilience to cyber security incursions, in a time frame that allows for rapid upgrades and deployment of what ever assistance is agreed between our government and allies.

As a voice of reason caring for the single payer system we need to effectively communicate the risks, if we drift, if we become ill-disciplined. We have some pretty compelling problems out there. Looking at what the foreign ministry deals with and what's on the horizon should be enough to keep everyone on track to deliver a government capable of improved reach, adaptability and ferocity.

Looking at the degraded environments everybody talks about. I think that will be the call to every one to say hey, stay focused and deliver. We are not going to yield our sovereignty.

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Tom, I don't want to repeat myself, but I can only say again that I think NZ's foreign policy consensus is that what suits us is a respect for a rules-based global order and multi-lateralism. I essentially agree with that, yet it seems to me this stance isn't consistent with either of those. 

If we only act when NZ citizens are injured, we will quickly be seen as standing for nothing by NZ First. Very Trumpian. Even to the point of saying Russia's acts in another country shouldn't get in the way of trade. I struggle with that.

Lee, some big generalisations there. And while I'm all for healthy scepticism, I'm wary of down-grading relationships with other democracies on the basis of one or two political cycles.

But one of my key points is not a million miles from you point. I'm saying that at some stage – for a bit – we may well want to signal that we might not want to be as close to our traditional allies as we have been in the past. So we want some diplomatic credit in the bank. Why spend it making ourselves outliers over this issue where the choice of which side to be on is actually not that complicated?

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

And Andrew, this.

Does that change your three options somewhat? 1 is out, 2 has to be more nuanced and 3, well, no-one is saying the government has lied, but there are spies and I'm not the only one pointing out that Winston does have some odd Russia issues

Also, Ardern may in fact be getting officials to look at more creative ways to bring us more in line with the 27 other countries, perhaps in the form of visa restrictions. So I claim a point there! Because I think there are transparent and diplomatic ways to get the weight and nuance right, without taking the worst-case positions of over-reacting or lying that you've offered as the only alternatives to what's been done thus far.

Perhaps there's still time for NZ to find that middle ground and recalibrate.

by Tim Watkin on March 28, 2018
Tim Watkin

Paul Buchanan has raised similar questions to mine in the Guardian... probably more succinctly and undoubtedly with more expertise. For example:

New Zealand’s decision not to participate in the solidarity coalition was made in the face of a direct request from the May government and in spite of the fact that the collective action is largely symbolic. Although Russian intelligence operations will be adversely affected in places like the UK, US and Germany, many of those being expelled are “normal” diplomats who can be recalled at some future date. So the downside to joining the coalition would seem relatively small even with Russian threats of retaliation, and the upside in terms of being seen to be a good diplomatic partner that supports international norms could well outweigh whatever the Russians can respond with.

The point about normal diplomats may address one of Andrew's concerns. It seems expelling a normal diplomat would not equate to over-reach.

Like me, he asks why we seem to be making a stand on this issue, rather than go with the flow. If it's to curry favour and trade with Putin, does that change anyone's view?

by Tom Semmens on March 29, 2018
Tom Semmens

Let's kick out 76 Russians, if it keeps the cold warriors happy.


by Lee Churchman on March 29, 2018
Lee Churchman


And while I'm all for healthy scepticism, I'm wary of down-grading relationships with other democracies on the basis of one or two political cycles.

Well, I think the present situation has deeper roots than that. For the US this has been building for decades. For the UK, it never seems to have adapted to its diminished power and position. It's a political mess and will probably split within the next 20 years. 

Yes, they are democracies, but that term is less useful than it used to be, as there is a developing estrangement between liberal and illiberal democracies. This is just one of those times where the tectonic plates have shifted enough to make old alliances start looking ridiculous.

I think it's reasonable to say that our side muffed the end of the Cold War. For better or worse we have to deal with the strange world they've created. It's a more dangerous world in some ways, where principles aren't of much use, but it's what we have to deal with. 

by on March 29, 2018

And pundits will still blame Russia for The Right Honorable Christopher Finlayson committing criminal acts as Attorney General. What a joke this place is. Thought this place was meant to be some how different from the standrd.co.nz or kiw blog. It's sickening having self professed defenders of New Zeaalnd democracy and journalistic integrity being such a bunch of muppets. You guys are literally covering for the National Party.


4th National government: leaky Holmes 

5th National government: leaky hospitals 


are you muppets kiwis or what the fuck?

by Fentex on March 29, 2018

Theresa May is said to have used Five Eyes intelligence in communiques with friendly states to prove Rusisan responsibility for the attack on Skripal.

This does not seem to have convinced our government (which as a member of Five Eyes is supposed to have access to it's intelligence) that it is compelled to act.

That makes me curious - is our access to Five Eyes intelligence limited, or is it unconvincing on this matter?

Either answer (if it isn't a third option) is an unpleasant thought for me.

by Tim Watkin on March 29, 2018
Tim Watkin

Lee, I hope you're wrong. I'm more optimistic it will swing back and settle. But I just hope you're wrong. Time will tell.

Sam, I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm not sure what Finlayson/Dotcom (which is what I presume you're referring to) has to do with a thread on Russia and foreign policy, sorry.

Interesting question, Fentex. Who says she used five eyes intel?

by Megan Pledger on March 29, 2018
Megan Pledger

I think we should objectively determine our response on it's merits - not for something we can get out it sometime in the future, after some sort of hypothetical incident.

And given the hold Russia has over America at the moment through its president - I don't know if we're going to get any brownie points by going after Russia anyway. But that shouldn't be our logic anyway.


by on March 29, 2018

You're a message boy, I have a message. Which one of the 4 generations of Novichok was found in Skriples blood? Or was it a fifth gen version?

by barry on March 30, 2018

I am not saying that 2 wrongs make a right, I am saying that people are selective about which wrongs they get upset over.

In this case it looks like a group of people ganging up on the warty boy while ignoring the same behaviour from the good looking popular one.

by Fentex on March 30, 2018

Who says she used five eyes intel?

I saw it referred to a few times, trying to find who wrote it first I find an article at the financial times that more implies than asserts it.

by gregfullmoon on March 31, 2018

I've read a few of the early comments including from Tim, Andrew and Sam.

As I apprehend the discussion it is taking place amongst a group of knowledgable professionals, including lawyers and representatives of the NZ Press Council, to whom I am acquainted in relation to complaint #2574 an issue with Stuff comment 'principles'

 The point for me is to encourage civilised and enlightened discourse about the Skripal event, the discovery, investigation and discussions relating to it.

The discussion to now appears to feed in Empire's 'Strategy of Tension' agenda - this time provided by the UK branch of #WarPigs.Inc.

The Skripal 'poisoning' occurred 4 March - despite the belated involvement of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) we are no closer to knowing what agency was employed - what the UK does know appears to be tightly controlled.

A former official from OPCW (from 1993 to 2006), Dr Ralf Trapp states through the journalism of Dr. Nafeez Ahmed that there's "no evidence pointing to Russia" in respect to Skripal:

 Further the Russians launched countermeasures a day or so back flipping the perversion of legal presumption argument whereby the desperate UK Government attempts to frame Russia merely by asserting their claim without evidence.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that their analysis of the assassination attempt has them to believe in 'a possible involvement in it of the British intelligence services'.

The Ministry says that in the absence of proof of British innocence, Moscow will regard the incident as an attempt on the lives of Russian citizens on foreign soil. 

'An analysis of all the circumstances ... leads us to think of the possible involvement in it (the poisoning) of the British intelligence services,' the foreign ministry said in a statement.

'If convincing evidence to the contrary is not presented to the Russian side we will consider that we are dealing with an attempt on the lives of our citizens as a result of a massive political provocation.'


It is to be noted that uttering false claims against Sovereign Nations is banned by the UN Charter, and most recently reminded to us by Alfred de Zayas in his paper to the UNHRC (A/HRC/37/63) in which he "highlights the urgent need to apply human rights principles systematically and uniformly to all entities and endeavours."

De Zayas states “What we see is a financial system rigged in favour of powerful individuals and corporations, unequal participation in governments and international organisations, and communities suffering from a reduction of social services, imposed austerity, privatization of public utilities, the misplaced priorities of political leaders and a general absence of genuine representation,” - UN Human Rights High Commission press release


As with the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction lie by the UK establishment led by 33 degree Mason Prime Minister Tony Blair, we are likely being lied to again.

So being a curious fellow 19 March 2018 I emailed an OIA request to the NZ Government (dropbox pdf of email)

 Extracted questions;

B. My questions to the NZ Government Ministers and Officials of the Crown are as follows:
  • B1.  Has the Government postively identified that the alleged nerve agent used in the Skripal case was manufactured by the Russian Government or its agents - please provide all information?
  • B 2.  Has the NZ Government positively identified that the alleged nerve agent used in the Skripal case was deployed by the Russian Government and or Russian agents - please provide all information?
  • B 3.  Has the NZ Government investigated any other State, entity or individual, that may have manufactured the alleged nerve agent used in the Skripal case- please provide all information?
  • 4Has the NZ Government investigated any other State, entity or individual, that may have deployed the alleged nerve agent used in the Skripal case - please provide all information ?
  • B 5.  What information has the NZ Government requested from the UK Government in respect to the Skripal case - please provide all information ?
  • B 6.  What information has the NZ Government requested from the Russian Government in respect to the Skripal case - please provide all information?
  • B 7.  What information has the NZ Government requested from any other authority, State, entity or individual in respect to the Skripal case?
  • 8.  What information would enable the NZ Government to withdraw its assertion that the Russian Government attempted the life of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia - please provide all information?
  • B 9. In the event of the Russians being cleared is it NZ Government policy to pursue the real culprit with equal determination as directed at Russia in the present circumstances - please provide all information?
  • B10. What work has been undertaken to this point in respect to negotiating a trade and investment treaty with Russia-Belarus Kazakhstan Customs Union which MFAT says "would present a unique opportunity for New Zealand to extend and future-proof our relationship, particularly with Russia, the largest country in the world and the 9th-largest economy"  https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/agreements-under-negotiation/rbk/ - please provide all information?
  • B11.  In the event that the NZ Government assertion of Russian guilt in the Skripal matter is proved to be spurious and false, will that finding of fact move the NZ Government to issue an apology to the Russian Government for NZ's breach of good faith that is making unfounded accusations - please provide all information?


The point in all of this is the unlikely point in history where we the people of the planet are provided with a factual account of what transpired. Waiting... for how long???

And when we do find out some of the truth as in "Blair is a war criminal" from the Chilcot inquiry...

The UK Courts (part of the club) roll over and give no hope (last thing or quality in Pandora's Box) that Blair will face prosecution for participation in the organised murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's. The matter of Impunity is a bit of a problem according to the UN and any 'decent human rights juror.'

The same with 9/11 and the War on Afghanistan, what happened there?!?

Real facts - I can tell you what didn't happen on 11 Sep 2001 and still we wait for the democracy's intelligence arm (the news media institution) to dig into the truth... ha ha he ha... 

 Main Stream is a lie

But at least they will track down and rid us of fake news


by gregfullmoon on April 21, 2018

#2 Skripal    21 April 2018

In the interests of full reporting of the facts of the NZ OIA 1982 and its value in bringing to public light critcal pieces of information. The NZ Government provided their response in respect to my questions on the Skripal matter. 

Link to a pdf of scanned letter uploaded to a dropbox url:


It seems there's a contradiction, between official information held and the assertions of the NZ government in the free press.

In the free press the government made a number of assertions, both implied and direct of Russian Government action or agency in the Skripal poisoning production.

How did they arrive at that without any official information to make the call or decision to accuse Russia?

Was it Five Eyes intel or Google as I do? Google was good enough to allow US nuclear capable naval assets through our anti nuclear ship legislation by the previous leader 'John I love America Key' - Mr. Independent Sir Bankster.

I remember when the GCSB website said it's purpose was to provide intelligence for an independent NZ. It certainly makes that unfounded assertion no longer.

NZ is not independent, it Asserts and Utters without evidence so without Factual Information, thus without formal knowledge - to know is a special quality.

I sense and reason the NZ Government acted (by making the allegations however framed that "Russia dunnit") for an ideology or upon instruction. Here's the NZ Government media statement of 16 March 2018:


29 March NZ Government confirms it will deny access to Russians expelled from the 20 plus nations that between them expelled 200 Russian diplomatic staff. 


The NZ Government takes these actions with no Official Information as far as I can see in the formal response offered by the NZ Government to my OIA questions above. It appears to have done it as part of a 'club' response which if acting despite the evidence is a conspiracy against the peace.

The next statement on matters related in on Syria 14 April 2018 in relation to the Douma incident. I offer it here for your interest as the pattern of 'hate Russia' is demonstrated yet again through the production of unfounded assertions:


The false assertion is illegal and contrary to the UN Charter where the evidence proves otherwise. In fact due process needs to accord the presumption of innocence to any accused until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt (the civil standard). One would expect that international relations demand a high evidence measure for the proving of guilt as the consequences and implications of getting it wrong include genocide and national devastation. This is well proven in respect to Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction. Killing, injuring and displacing millions on the basis of spurious Official Information is intolerable and needs to be stopped forthwith.

Where are the pro bono activist lawyers willing to launch prosecution to end impunity?

For the funny side of overkill...

The Skripal assertion is all the more perverse with the UK Authorities attempting high level decontamination around Salisbury for elusive Novichok a full six (6) weeks after the incident. That's got a be a bit of a oversight?


They are going to get 'Banksy' to brighten up the many barriers that will be erected for months for the decontamination production.


Then there is the Russian counter based on their access to the hi-level OPCW classified report - the one not released to the public - the Russians asserting that the OPCW contracted Swiss Govt Chem Lab identified the poison as "BZ"


Which suggests an overplayed cover-up.

Reality is disconcerting and fascinating  :)






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