On July 21st, the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) released a report specifically on Russia and the challenges it presents, as well as recommendations on how to deal with it. [pdf]
The ISC makes a number of points, mostly focused on the presumed Russian intervention in the UK political and economic life. They are:
- Russian influence in the UK is the new normal. Successive Governments have welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures.
- This has led to a growth industry of ‘enablers’ including lawyers, accountants, and estate agents who are – wittingly or unwittingly – de facto agents of the Russian state.
- It demonstrates the inherent tension between the Government’s prosperity agenda and the need to protect national security. While we cannot now shut the stable door, greater powers and transparency are needed urgently.
- The UK is a target for Russian disinformation. While the mechanics of our paper-based voting system are largely sound, we cannot be complacent about a hostile state taking deliberate action with the aim of influencing our democratic processes.
- Yet the defense of those democratic processes has appeared something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organization considering itself to be in the lead, or apparently willing to conduct an assessment of such interference. This must change.
- Social media companies must take action and remove covert hostile state material: Government must ‘name and shame’ those who fail to act.
- The UK needs other countries to step up with the UK and attach a cost to Putin’s actions. Salisbury must not be allowed to become the high water mark in international unity over the Russia threat.
The entire report is actually just a fraction, since there is a Classified Annex that contains most of the issues that are being discussed and are not available for open access.
Okay, so “What does Russia want?”, according to the ISC:
“The security threat posed by Russia is difficult for the West to manage as, in our view and that of many others, it appears fundamentally nihilistic. Russia seems to see foreign policy as a zero-sum game: any actions it can take which damage the West are fundamentally good for Russia. It is also seemingly fed by paranoia, believing that Western institutions such as NATO and the EU have a far more aggressive posture towards it than they do in reality. There is also a sense that Russia believes that an undemocratic ‘might is right’ world order plays to its strengths, which leads it to seek to undermine the Rules Based International Order – whilst nonetheless benefitting from its membership of international political and economic institutions.”
Russia, according to the report, also wishes to show that it is a “great power” no less than the former Soviet Union, and possibly even more so.
And the UK is a target since Russia “apparently” considers London as one of its top Western intelligence targets. That is primarily because of the good job that the UK has been doing in countering “Russian aggression.”
“This perception will have been reinforced by the UK’s firm stance recently in response to Russian aggression: following the UK-led international response to the Salisbury attack – which saw an unprecedented 153 Russian intelligence officers and diplomats expelled from 29 countries and NATO – it appears to the Committee that Putin considers the UK to be a key diplomatic adversary. The threat to the UK – and any changes to this following the actions taken in response to the Salisbury attack – is described in this Report, together with the action that the UK Intelligence Community is taking to counter those threats.”
The report provides several areas that need improvement in terms of the fight against Russia:
- The Government Communications Headquarter (GCHQ) assesses that Russia is a highly capable cyber actor with a proven capability to carry out operations which can deliver a range of impacts across any sector. It’s allegedly been doing so since 2014, including GRU agents carrying out alleged phishing operations against UK government departments.
- The spreading of disinformation (by which we mean the promotion of intentionally false, distorting or distracting narratives) and the running of ‘influence campaigns’ are separate but interlinked subjects. An influence campaign in relation to an election, for example, may use the spreading of disinformation, but may also encompass other tactics such as illicit funding, disruption of electoral mechanics or direct attacks on one of the campaigns (such as ‘hack and leak’). Equally, the spreading of disinformation is not necessarily aimed at influencing any individual outcome.
- Whilst the Russian elite have developed ties with a number of countries in recent years, it would appear that the UK has been viewed as a particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money. “What is now clear is that it was in fact counte-productive, in that it offered ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London ‘laundromat’.
The report emphasizes that Russia currently poses a significant threat to the UK on a number of fronts – from espionage to interference in democratic processes, and to serious crime. It continues that the response needs to be combined from all UK security and intelligence agencies, government bodies, included with the ministers of government, as well as the ISC. This will require renewed doctrines, more and improved projects.
And this will not be an easy feat:
“As already noted, the Russian government is an accomplished adversary with well-resourced and world-class offensive and defensive intelligence capabilities. The well-publicised mistakes Russian operatives made in Salisbury, and later in trying to infiltrate the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), have led to public speculation about the competence of the Russian Intelligence Services (RIS), and the GRU in particular. Whilst these attacks demonstrate that the RIS are not infallible, it would be foolhardy to think that they are any less dangerous because of these mistakes. Indeed, the likelihood is that the RIS will learn from their errors, and become more difficult to detect and protect against as a result.”
Of course, none of this can be achieved without due support from international partners such as the US, NATO and others.
Russia, however, supposedly can’t rely on allies, at least not as much as the UK:
“By contrast to the West, Russia has traditionally been suspicious of building significant international partnerships. However, we note that in recent years it has been proactive in seeking ‘alliances of convenience’ across the world. This has included deepened defense and security co-operation with China, as a useful partner against the US (going so far as to conduct joint military exercises), increased influence in South America, and substantive engagement in several African countries, including widespread trade campaigns.”
It’s interesting to note that to motivate the need of the expanded campaign against Russia, the report is extensively using such terms as “open source studies”, including some mysterious “credible open source commentary”, and complains about the “fundamentally nihilistic” approach of Russia.
Indeed, if one translates the report wording from the mainstream propaganda language to the ordinary English, the British government and special services complain that they have not enough leverages of pressure and instruments to influence Russia and needs to expand clandestine, diplomatic and propaganda campaigns against Moscow. At the same time, London tries to demonize tactical successes of the Russian state to inform the English-speaking audience of its point of view through diplomatic channels and English-language state media like RT and Sputniknews.
Probably, the main point of the concern for London is that in the conditions of the crumbling neo-liberal narrative (due to the global economic crisis, the COVID-19 outbreak and a series of crises in base states for the Euro-Atlantic establishment), the Russian behavior on the international arena became attractive for the part of the European and American population, which is still not fully indocrinated by the mainstream propaganda.
The Russian side has already denied all the accusations provided by the report of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee. Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it has shown “nothing sensational” and is just “fake shaped Russophobia.”
In response to the report, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov made a statement:
“Russia has never interfered in electoral processes in any country of the world: not in the United States, not in Great Britain, or in other countries. We do not do it ourselves and do not tolerate when other countries try to interfere in our political affairs,” Peskov told reporters.
The head of the international committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, believes that by criticizing Russia, Britain is trying to regain its positions in European politics.
“I am convinced that the reason for the appearance of such an odious report is the attempts of the British authorities to regain the European palm at any cost … And why not lead in Russophobia? While in the European Union, London lost some of its brilliance against the background of the Young Europeans, competing with each other, which of them in exchange for European dividends could ruin relations with our country more abruptly,” he wrote on Facebook.
It’s unlikely that the Russian statements will convince anybody in the British establishment because the main goal of the report was not to find the truth but to set conditions for a further action against Moscow.
At the same time, the content of the entire report is quite funny as the side blaming Moscow for the supposed “fundamentally nihilistic” approach and simultaneously proposing employing various propaganda, intelligence and censorship methods against the alternative point of view. Such complains are only fueling this ‘Russia-styled fundamental nihilism’ among the audience, which still is able to have own critical point of view and like to check facts. This demonstrates a sad tendency of the falling level of competence among personnel (including agents, analysis and propagandists) of the Western special services. These agencies are now forced to be fully in the framework of the neo-liberal, minorities-ruled agenda employing the policy of ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusivity’ promoted by the globalists. Apparently, personal details of particular personnel have become more important that their skills.
Since the very start of SouthFront work, our team has been repeatedly accused of intervening in various processes in the ‘democratic countries’ and spreading top-notch ‘disinformation’ on the highest level (including press briefings of the US Department of State and reports by the French Defense Ministry). And we are not going to stop on this. So, if you want to fuel some more ‘nihilism’ and coverage that disturb the Euro-Atlantic establishment and globalists, support our work.
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