03:33 GMT19 January 2021
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    Bellingcat, CNN, Der Spiegel, and The Insider claim that they have unearthed a “long-running FSB operation" to track Russian opposition blogger Alexei Navalny. It allegedly involves chemical weapons experts linked to the development of Novichok-type nerve agents. International observers have questioned the timing of the report, and its main target.

    The timing of the media campaign promoting the Navalny poisoning narrative is "perfect as usual," says British political analyst Marcus Godwyn. He highlights that Bellingcat's report was released ahead of the US electoral vote, scheduled for 14 December, apparently serving as a "reminder to all Americans and especially those pulling the strings of power that they can never let their guard down when it comes to 'evil, scheming Russia'".

    It appears that the reports are designed to slide into the political agenda of the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden, should the Democrat occupy the Oval Cabinet, suggests Dr Ludwig Watzal, a German-based journalist and editor. Biden repeatedly claimed during the presidential race that he would crack down on Russia if he comes out on top and specifically condemned the "Russian state" for the alleged "poisoning" of the opposition blogger.

    Judging from the Biden campaign rhetoric, "the course against Russia will be toughened", suggests Stevan Gajic, a political scientist from the Institute of European Studies in Belgrade.

    "I think Russia would be more and more isolated and targeted by the Biden administration if it comes to power and of course, by the loyal allies of NATO, especially the Baltic states, Poland and others", he says.

    (FILES) In this file photo taken on August 20, 2020 Former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) and Senator from California and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris greet supporters outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
    © AFP 2020 / OLIVIER DOULIERY
    (FILES) In this file photo taken on August 20, 2020 Former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) and Senator from California and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris greet supporters outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Biden is not the only one to potentially profit from the Bellingcat inquiry: all so-called political elites in the West that are overwhelmingly anti-Russian and anti-Putin are likely to benefit from a poisoning narrative, according to Watzal.

    "One special target is the North Stream 2 pipeline", he stresses. "The US and the Brits, the Poles are against the pipeline; they have done everything to kill the project."

    Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel's support for the Nord Stream project, there are forces in Germany seeking to terminate the pipeline, the journalist notes, referring to the CDU and the Green Party.

    "Norbert Roettgen, a staunch supporter of the US and the war-prone Green Party, are against [Nord Stream 2]", he says. "Annalena Bearbock argued that the pipeline would subvert 'European sovereignty'".

    Andy Vermaut, a Belgian human rights activist and political commentator, shares the stance that Bellingcat's "pretentious research" was meant to be used "to try to shut down Nord Stream 2". On 11 December, it was reported that, despite US sanctions, Russia had resumed work on the pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

    The German economy appears to be held hostage, as Washington and European allies over the last couple of years repeatedly attempt to shut down Nord Stream 2, believes Stevan Gajic. He suggests that history is repeating itself, as previously a similar campaign was launched against the South Stream pipeline. That effort to kill the pipeline failed, as it has been rebranded the Turkish stream, Gajic notes.

    "Were this project to be cancelled, it would be bad news for Russia but catastrophic news for ordinary German people who will be faced with very large fuel bill hikes and maybe shortages should the project not go through", echoes Marcus Godwyn.

    A US sanctions policy against Moscow has proven totally futile and can no longer cause anything more than an inconvenience to Russia, as Moscow has taken the time to isolate many industries and systems from being reliant on Western providers, the British political analyst offered.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Bellingcat, Novichok, "poisoning", Nord Stream 2, Alexei Navalny, US
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