Russia has been accused by the UK to be responsible for the alleged chemical attack on Sergey Skripal, but has officially and vehemently denied any involvement. Moreover, Russian government officials have claimed that Britain may in fact have orchestrated the attack itself. In other official statements Russian officials pointed out that absolutely no evidence has been provided to the public, to Russia or to the governments of Britain's NATO partners that have demonstrated solidarity with the UK by expelling Russian diplomats. Also, Russian officials claim that while the Russian chemical weapons program and everything connected to it had been verifiably destroyed under foreign supervision, other countries like the UK, Slovakia, Sweden and the Czech Republic have carried out "intense research" on nerve agents like "Novichok" until today and are likely to possess samples of these substances (Which would be of interest if "Novichok" was indeed the poison used in the attack).

Questions about possible Russian motives to carry out the attack have been asked before.

As it is absolutely obscure, who may be responsible for the attack and mutual accusations by the opposing parties exist, questions about a possible UK involvement have to remain valid.

I want to ask:

What would the UK stand to gain from conducting an attack on the ex-spy Sergei Skripal?

Is there historical evidence that the UK indeed has conducted similar operations in the past?

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    I have downvoted this question according to the tooltip: "it is not useful". We could also ask "what would Liechtenstein stand to gain from killing the pope?" It's a useless hypothetical question. "Political opinions and preferences" has no part in it.
    – user11249
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 15:32
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    Are there reasons to believe that the UK/US are directly or indirectly involved in the attack on the ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter? This isn't a good faith question. You present no evidence at all and, as open-ended as this is, it invites anti-US/UK ranting and conspiracy theories. And why just them? Why not ask if France did it? Or Brazil? We could go around and around on this, but it's just not answerable.
    – Machavity
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:14
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    @Machavity: I think I don't have to present any evidence, as any possible evidence is part of the answer. In the case of the attack there are suspects and motives, as there are for any given crime. The British government favors the theory that Russian government involvement is "highly likely". However, as long as this is no fact, the next best suspect is the UK/US itself. My question is about the possible motives and especially about possible historical precedents.
    – A. Froster
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:27
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    @Gramatik: The question does not ask for opinions, it asks for reasons. I am particularly interested in possible UK/US motives. A question about possible Russian motives has already been thoroughly answered (see link in the question). The historical evidence I'm asking for may include cases of covert operations that had been blamed on another party, false flag operations, etc.
    – A. Froster
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:36
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    @Gramatik Please have a look at politics.stackexchange.com/questions/28507/…. Assuming that we really don't know who is involved, that question is very very similar. If you see any conceptual differences, please let me know. Maybe that can be corrected.
    – A. Froster
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


"On 4 March 2018, former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England, with a chemical determined by the Government of the United Kingdom to be a Novichok nerve agent." source

Novichok is a nerve agent which began development in the Soviet Union and continued after its collapse into 1993, and Sergei Skripal is former Russian spy turned double agent for the UK. This question assumes that, given how these facts seem to lead perhaps too strongly towards Russia being the culprit, that the UK or an ally of the UK has pulled a False Flag operation in the attempted assassination of Skripal, implicating Russia.

To look into what the UK would stand to gain from this, we need to look at how the UK has responded to this event. The UK and subsequently many of their allies have expelled Russian diplomats as a response to this. This disrupts the spy network of Russia, which is the only objective benefit of the response thus far. Subjectively one could argue that both the attempted assassination itself as well as the expulsion of Russian diplomats constitutes anti-Russian propaganda, as the assassination attempt has been a highly circulated story that has been implying Russia as the culprit, and the expulsion of diplomats is a relatively cost-free way of expressing displeasure with another country. Though whether anti-Russian sentiment is a benefit at all, intended or otherwise, is subject to opinion as nothing tangible is directly gained from it.

It has also been posited that the close proximity of this event to the Russian election in which Putin was expected to retain his presidency was a factor in this event. There are arguments on both sides for this: those claiming that Russia is the likely culprit have stated that Putin's 'strongman' leadership style would benefit from such an event, as it allows Putin to say "Look at how the world is against you, they blame Russia for every wrong. You need a strong leader like me to protect you from the world". An external enemy diverts attention from internal problems. Those claiming Russia is not the culprit have stated that this could have been an effort to discredit Putin among the Russian population in an effort to harm Putin's victory margins in the election.

As to whether the UK has pulled such operations in the past, there is no indication of an assassination of a former spy or false flagging thereof, but a parallel could possibly be drawn between false flag operations by the UK in coordination with the US during the 1953 Iranian Coup d'etat called in the UK "Operation Boot" and in the US "Operation Ajax". This was, however, 75 years ago.

From an outside perspective, the potential costs to the UK of orchestrating the attempted assassination of Skripal and false flagging Russia - including the possibility that the truth behind such an operation could eventually be brought to light - appear far greater than the benefits reaped, but it is technically possible that this is the case.


Skirpal had already delivered any possible sensitive information to the UK and US before his arrest and imprisonment and exchange for Russian spies, nor could he have embarrassed the UK or US with revelations. He had nothing more to reveal. Neither the US nor the UK would have any reason to attack him.

The method of attack was designed to send a message. If the US or UK wanted to quietly dispose of Skirpal, then they'd probably just arrange an auto accident or a street mugging. Nor is it likely that this could be an elaborate scheme to cast further doubt on Russian leadership - they are already doing a very good job of casting suspicion and doubt on themselves. Neither the US nor the UK have a history of elaborate misinformation schemes like this. Russian and the Soviet Union do have a history of elaborate disinformation schemes.

Attacking him with a sophisticated nerve agent that can only be produced by a major nation is an act of intimidation: we can find you and get you no matter where you go. This is characteristic of the stone age mentality that current Russian leadership seems to be drifting towards. Since they can't compete economically, they fall back on the Stalinesque method of intimidation. It's a pity they can't put the bright minds in their country to work producing something the rest of the world wants.

No problem, though. The last time the Soviet Union tried intimidation through brute force, we bankrupted them. If they have to learn that lesson all over again... so be it. Given the economic interdependence in the world today, and the fragile economic condition of Russia today, running them broke will be easier to do the next time around.

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    While the content of this answer is not necessarily wrong, its tone still shows a very strong anti-russian sentiment. Please try to be more neutral.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 19:24
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    None of this answers the question. Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 0:24
  • Well, to repeat what I said earlier, the UK stands to gain nothing by Skirpal's death, so it is highly unlikely that they had a hand in this. I'm not anti-Russian, I'm anti-regressing to dictatorship. Like it worked so well in Stalin days...
    – tj1000
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 17:30
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    I'm reasonably certain that the UK doesn't "quietly dispose" of people. We have an entire system of laws that are designed to prevent that from happening.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:35

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