Russia was one of two nations involved in Exercise Zapad (Picture: Russian Ministry of Defence).
By Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, chemical weapons expert
Despite all the great advocacy by President Donald Trump, North Korea seems unimpeded in developing its intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear and chemical warheads, which are no doubt vectored on the capitals of the West and the US in particular.
The botched assassination attempt killed an innocent civilian Dawn Sturgess, injured four others, terrorised a city and has caused millions pounds worth of damage to property and the local economy.
The use of a nerve agent on British soil is a sickening and despicable act.
It sadly follows a pattern of Russian behaviour aimed at trying to destabilise the West and extend Russian influence.
It is furthering the abhorrent use of chemical weapons, which sadly have been ‘normalised’ with frequent successful use by the Assad regime in Syria, by the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq over the last few years and of course North Korea with the use of VX to murder Kim Jong Nam.
Novichok, this Russian super weapon of mass destruction (WMD) has transfixed the world for 12 months and no doubt many more.
Its use is the brightest neon advertising sign to jihadists and others, who now direct their followers to attack western targets with them.
There is little doubt that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has also noticed the strategic leverage WMD can give.
Unsurprisingly, this erratic dictator sees them as a key asset with which to put himself on the world stage as a man to be reckoned with.
There is no doubt that the behaviour of North Korea and Russias is to enhance Mr Kim and Mr Putin’s internal standing and take their people’s eyes of their tanking economies
They both like to appear as great strategists, with irrational reason, who run rings around some of our own leaders, but it is with evil intent.
In a Mafioso-type persona, they seem intent to undermine global harmony, certainly that of the United States, United Kingdom and our allies.
Vladimir Putin is clearly demonstrating to the West that he possesses a super WMD and that it overmatches NATO defensive and offensive capabilities in this area.
I have no doubt, in the unlikely event of an East to West confrontation that he would not hesitate to use all weapons, like these, at his disposal.
Both leaders appear unconcerned with the intended or unintended consequences, casualties or collateral damage these WMDs can produce.
What does this mean?
We must restart the dialogue with Russia and North Korea to have new relationships, however distasteful this currently appears.
But they must also come to realise their ‘bully boy’ tactics have no place in today’s world.
This will take firm, direct and forthright leadership from the likes of the US, UK and France, not the usual lame platitudes which seem to fit political diplomacy at present.
They are bullies, and they only capitulate or negotiate in the face of strength.
Novichok aside, the West vastly overmatches Russia and North Korean militarily - a fact Putin knows all too well, but perhaps not the Russian and North Korean people?
Mr Putin has put on display his best military hardware in Syria, and a bit like the GRU, most appear to be someway behinds us in technology, capability and reliability terms.
Sadly, we have learned from Assad’s success in Syria that chemical weapons are morbidly brilliant for winning the most difficult of battles – those fought in towns and cities.
Nevertheless, it is civilians who suffer most, with no gas masks to protect themselves from these most in discriminant of weapons.
The sight of young children in Syria, choking to death on the First World War chemical weapon chlorine, must be enough to galvanise all leaders to act against them?
Since the Obama red line was crossed and no action was taken after the massive nerve agent attack on the Syria city of Ghouta in August 2013, chemical weapons, virtually unused since World War One, have become commonplace.
They are seen as the perfect terror weapon - the genie is very much out of the bottle.
Weak politicians, particularly in the UK and United Nations have now helped create the monster that is chemical weapons which look likely to plague the towns, cities and battlefields of the world in the future.
We must make demonstrable efforts at the UN especially, to reimpose the red line and absolutely smash anybody who uses or attempts to use chemical weapons.
I am sure at least on this we can agree with Mr Putin?
Perhaps, with North Korea flexing its nuclear muscles and the anniversary of the chemical attack in the UK, politicians and diplomats in the ‘free world’ will be galvanised to attempt to normalise our relationship with Russia and North Korea, and lead the way once more to eradicate chemical weapons from the planet, and nuclear weapons from North Korea?