Russia acts without scruple or care for its reputation
TELEGRAPH VIEW17 July 2020 • 6:00am
Russia was accused yesterday of trying to steal British research on a Covid-19 vaccine. It is further evidence that the country acts without scruple, and with no regard for its reputation. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, called it “selfish” and “reckless”.
The cyber-attacks were carried out on researchers at Oxford and Imperial, part of an “ongoing campaign” of malicious activity – according to the National Cyber Security Centre – that began around February or March, when coronavirus became an international crisis. This intelligence has been verified by the United States and Canada and culpability is believed to go right to the top of the Kremlin.
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has well and truly become a rogue state. Its list of actions against the UK alone make quite a charge sheet: Russia has used chemical weapons on our soil in Salisbury, hacked energy companies on the day of the 2017 election, and yesterday was also accused of attempting to influence the 2019 election by promoting a leaked dossier of US/UK trade relations that played into Labour’s hands.
These latest revelations are presumably just a warm-up for whatever is to be revealed next week in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russian involvement in British elections. There really can be no doubt about the nature of the Kremlin’s threat and no plausible grounds to deny it; this is not an ordinary regime but a power bent on destabilising what it regards as its competitors.
Yesterday, the Russians announced, with suspicious timing, that they would be producing 200 million doses of an experimental vaccine this year. If that vaccine is successful, and if it has been helped by stealing other people’s research, there will be a chorus of opinion that it ought to be shared fairly around the world so as to benefit as many as possible.
The international community is in a very vulnerable position right now. It is simply immoral for state actors to exploit that vulnerability for strategic advantage. Indeed, this is precisely the moment when nations should be cooperating in order to find a route out of a health crisis that has, in turn, resulted in economic devastation everywhere. The free world should make the point forcefully.