Russia poses an increasing threat to the UK and is using all the powers at its disposal to push its policies abroad, Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker told the Guardian.
“It [Russia] is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that,” Parker said in the first interview by an incumbent chief since the service was founded over 100 years ago.
He added that Russia still has spies on the ground in the UK, but due to the development of cyberwarfare, ways and methods have been changing. Among the alleged targets he indicated, are military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.
“Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the West and seems to act accordingly,” Parker said.
“You can see that on the ground with Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Syria. But there is high-volume activity out of sight with the cyber-threat. Russia has been a covert threat for decades. What’s different these days is that there are more and more methods available,” he added.
This month, the UK officials aren’t the only ones poking and prodding Russia cyberwar-wise: about a fortnight ago, US intelligence officials told NBC that the Obama administration was contemplating an unprecedented cyber “clandestine” action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.
Anti-Russia rhetoric in Britain has been worsening ever since before Brexit. In February, the UK’s top brass penned a letter for the Stay campaign waning that leaving the EU would see an increase of Islamic State attacks and the Russian threat, while Defence Secretary Michael Fallon insisted Brexit was “in Russia's interests.”
After the Brexit vote, tensions were pushed to a new level: amidst Russia’s campaign in Syria, the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson slammed Moscow as a “puppeteer” of the Assad regime and urged for protests outside the Russian embassy in London. This came on the heels of US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Russia and Syria of committing daily “crimes against humanity” in Aleppo.