We live in a strange era when it comes to Russia. On the one hand there are people who seem willing to insist that absolutely everything is controlled by the government and agencies of that country. They claim that Russia has the power to install an American President, to make the British vote Brexit and much more besides. On the other hand – as supporters of Julian Assange seem put on earth in order to remind us – are people who seem to think that the SVR and FSB are quiescent organisations whose erstwhile employees spend their days doodling pointlessly in their offices.
Perhaps the appalling suspected poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Wiltshire might help disabuse a few people from inhabiting either of these extremes. The middle-ground position on Russia – that their agencies continue to operate, do not have the best interests of the Western democracies at heart but are not the puppet-masters of the world – could do with some filling-up these days.