> Why choose a nerve agent over a hail of bullets, as used in the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, probably by Israel, in November? The logic behind using nerve agents in the Skripal and Navalny cases was that the target could be poisoned through contact with their own belongings, a method that allowed the would-be killers to operate at a safe distance. The death would be formally deniable but the result plain enough to send a message. In both cases the plot ran into the classic problem for assassins: the difficulty of actually killing the victim. It’s surprisingly common for people to survive assassination attempts, particularly when single gunshots or explosives are used. The recent record of attempted nerve agent assassinations leads to the suspicion that they, too, are a poor choice of weapon. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always fatal, since they aren’t quickly absorbed through the skin (death is quicker if they’re inhaled, or enter through the eyes). They’re expensive to produce and their effects can be treated with atropine. In this respect they aren’t a dramatic improvement over traditional poisons: hydrogen cyanide, pentobarbital, potassium chloride – or fentanyl derivatives of the kind used in the attempted assassination of the former Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in 1997 – do just as good a job. A mundane explanation for their recent use is that the FSB unit in charge of assassinations happens to be the division that oversaw the old Novichok labs. They used what they had.
Assassination of Kim Jong-nam used proved and tried liquid method https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Kim_Jong-nam
why use a nerve agent that is easily traceable back to russia? same reason you use polonium that can be traced back to the exact reactor, to send a message. If you defect to the west then Russia will come after you.
1. it allows the assassins do get away since there is a delay compared to a gun
2. it's formally deniable
3. it's informally obvious who did it
4. the people in charge of doing the killings are also in charge of the development of it, so it might have been easy for them to get access
To make it obvious who did it while still maintaining a thin facade of deniability.
As you say, quite the rabbit hole...
It doesn't fill that same niche as Po-210 where it can be traced back to the origin so clearly.
I'm not saying that happened, but there's tons of motives you can find for those other actors.
I suggest being more realistic. They do not kill just for being defectors. Majority of those do just fine. Many also visit back without much problems. But they sure kill those they want for whatever reasons.
Yes. The US has been threatening sanctions on Russian businesses to stop the pipeline since 2019. The US finally issued the sanctions on ships involved in the construction, using the poisoning explicitly as a justification.
A great deal of pressure was placed on Germany by the US to cancel it completely due to the poisoning, despite the several billion euros of investment already made by the country. The German government did not give in to the pressure.
Edit: The US did not explicitly sanction entities involved in the construction of the pipeline because of Navalny, I got that mixed up with a European parliament push to do so. 
** They weren't trying to send a message and were relying upon the natural tendency of novichok poisoning to look like natural heart failure. Allegedly there were some other offed Russian oligarchs in London that were chalked up to that that were quietly revisited by the UK.
** It was a group within the GRU acting independently, as evidenced by:
* Russia almost begging the UK to be clued into the investigation at the beginning.
* The history of Soviet agencies acting independently.
* The chaos in 1991 leading to lots of "disappeared" military equipment (I'm almost certain some novichok got "lost").
* The fact that Skripal was probably deeply hated within the GRU who would be more revenge oriented (in which case assassination makes sense) while Putin would be more focused on geopolitical advantage (in which case it doesn't). I can well imagine the fury the GRU had at seeing Putin allowing him to retire to a nice cottage after his treachery.
The timing of the assassination just before Putin's election almost looks like it might be about sending him a message.
This is the soviet way and business-as-usual, and they are still ruled by people who got these ways drilled in the brain in the height of the cold war while working for KGB. What else can you expect from such people. Bear in mind, very, very smart people, mostly highly functioning sociopaths like in many other top positions.
They don't care much about western condemnation or sanctions, those don't touch those who hold power (even specifically targeted ones). In contrary - it helps foster the us-vs-they mentality in state controlled media. There is a lot of macho behavior, and even president has to/wants to show some of it since its expected.
People tend to think how much has world moved since end of cold war. Well for Russia and its powergames, very little. Try to look at these things from perspective of cold war optics, and events like Ukraine, Georgia, poisonings etc. do look as usual tug of war of the past.
Because it acts as a deterrent to others interested in following in their footsteps.
“I can kill you at any time with no repercussions and I’ll deny it with a smile on my face because I can.”
Putin is busy trying to imprison anyone associated with or protesting for the release of Navalny. That is as telling as anything. It wasn’t the west.
In hindsight, it seems like really good way operating. Russia has plausible deniability as it's not factually proven that it is them but everyone thinks that it is, therefore they earn notoriety points that can make other think twice before doing something that Putin might not like.
Russia also gets mythical literature regarding its capabilities, which means that you can fear them as much as you like. It's intellectually fascinating that KGB and now Russa developed that almost magical substance.
Odourless, colourless substances that are harmless and undetectable create extremely potent poison when come together. This creates an opportunity for drama that would give the chills in any spycraft thriller movie. Just imagine knowing that the target was tagged with one of the substances and will die once comes in contact with the other one. A substance that will do nothing to no one else but the tagged person, it creates such a tension. You can imagine the paranoia if this is an actual possibility for you.
If somebody dropped a nuke on North Korea in 50s it would be pretty obvious who did it, wouldn't it?
There was only a few countries that had nukes and only 1 of them had the incentive.
It's very much like that with Novichok.
How is it different?
The second implication is that only Russia would have anything to gain from it, when the geopolitical machinations have worked out against Russia's favor. The sanctions put an extremely important pipeline for them on the back burner at best (probably canceled), and the Skripals had just about run out of usefulness to the west so it's not like the west lost anything really for that to happen.
As long as you don't have a proof, it's words in the winds really.
The academic community has a growing literature on this if you'll check google scholar. There's virtually no doubt it is a real phenomenon even if the term has to be used with nuance (as that article says).
He's saying that the behavior that "Gerasimov's doctrine" describes is not an actual doctrine. but it exists.
Maybe "associated with Russia in popular media" - which is a bit of a tautology - But the structures of these are public, they're simple chemistry, and even if it's an "undocumented" one you really have to work to make organophosphates that aren't deadly at low concentrations. Basically any country with a minimal chemical industry could synthesize it - Even a contract manufacturer told it's a "deadly research pesticide which you shouldn't touch"
Please subscribe in some capacity to the LRB - they are, perhaps, the best print periodical on the planet right now (perhaps neck and neck with The New Yorker) and have great coverage across a broad range of international issues.
Hitler served in WW1 and saw what chlorine does in the trenches. That's why he never used chemical weapons on battlefield.
Same as Julian Assange.
Gaddafi was mostly driven by trying to strength African and Arab unity to better stand up to western countries. He attempted to create a unified Arab state by merging Libya, Egypt and Syria. After that failed he set his sights on trying to create a more unified Africa. I can't find anything that Gaddafi was in it for personal power like Amin was.