We must confront Putin’s rogue state
If the UK was slow to act in the past, there can no longer be any excuses now.
Telegraph View. 22 July
The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into Russian activity in the UK did not contain the smoking gun that some had been eagerly anticipating. Indeed, given its contents, it is bemusing that the Government apparently went to such lengths to delay the ISC publication.
The work of eight months and redacted in parts, the report contains alarming information about the malicious activities of the Russian state, the role of wealthy expatriates in London, and the deficiencies of the UK authorities’ response. But it does not tell us much about Vladimir Putin’s regime or its malevolent attempts to destabilise the West that was not already widely known.
One of its main conclusions is that the UK was too slow to wake up to the threat posed by Putin and his henchmen. Describing Russia’s aims as “fundamentally nihilistic”, and the UK as being one of Moscow’s top intelligence targets, just behind the United States and Nato, a series of recommendations are proffered to protect better the British economy, and our democracy, from nefarious Russian activities.
The Government should consider these carefully. If the UK was slow to act in the past, there can no longer be any excuses now. The willingness of ministers to denounce the Russian state last week for its efforts to manipulate the 2019 general election, as well as its espionage campaign against Oxford vaccine researchers, is reassuring in that regard.
The attempt to drag the legitimacy of the EU referendum result into the debate, however, is bizarre and unacceptable. Speaking at the press conference, Stewart Hosie, an SNP member of the committee, alleged that British governments had avoided looking for evidence that Russia had interfered. Whatever the intent of his remarks, the effect was to fuel conspiracy theories that the Brexit vote was somehow won unfairly, for which there is zero evidence.
In any case, such pointless discussions are a distraction from the matter in hand. As if any more confirmation were needed, it is now beyond obvious that Russia is a rogue state that must be confronted robustly. Instead of doing Putin’s work for him by questioning the integrity of our democratic processes, it would be better if we turned our sights on how, in concert with our allies, we can more effectively address the danger to the free world that he represents.