Reliable Security Information

Non Lethal Novichok

The Novichok poison gas is interesting not because it is highly lethal, but because it produces non-lethal casualties that could massively disrupt unit cohesion on the battlefield. The fact that Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and British police officer Sgt Nick Bailey remain in critical condition is not the result of a botched attack, but rather a demonstration of a novel concept of chemical warfare.

The main aim of combat is to impose one's will on a resisting enemy. While the wholesale physical annihilation of the enemy force is one solution to this challenge, a more economical approach is to implode the operational coherence of the opposing force. The treatment of casualties resulting from a brute force attack is as simple as "tag em and bag em" - recover the dog tag for later identification, and put the corpse in a body bag for retrieval by the mortuary staff.

But in Vietnam, the Viet Cong discovered that it made more sense to wound Americans than to kill them. A wounded American could capture the attention of several of his buddies, and soon unit cohesion collapse as too many of the troops became pre-occupied with caring for the wounded. A less than lethal Novichok, that produces disabling nerve system collapse, would tie up a handful of troops for every one that was injured by the poison gas. Less than lethal could be better than lethal in winning on the battlefield.

On March 18, 2018, Vladimir Putin answered questions from Russian and foreign journalists. Putin continued Russia's denial of its participation in the Novichok nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia. "Regarding the tragedy you have mentioned, I learned about it from the media. The first thing that comes to mind is that, had it been a warfare agent, the victims would have died immediately. It is an obvious fact, which must be taken into account." Skripal and his daughter, who were found slumped and unconscious on 04 March in a placid English cathedral town.

Most of the coverage of the Novichok [newcomer, new guy] binary nerve agent itself has been of the gee-whiz variety that stressed how incredibly lethal it is relative to other poison gases. Vladimir Vladimirovich is certainly onto something in terms of the popular narrative.

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