It is without doubt true and easily demonstrated that the Russian security organs have meddled in Britain in a manner unimaginable during the Cold War. The murder of Litvinenko and the attempt on the life of Skripal’ – see previous blog entries – are all one needs to confirm that fact.
But now there is a scandal emerging as a result of the Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament on Russia (HC 632) – its direct interference in the political process, notably in respect of the Scottish independence referendum. But are we really to suppose that the balance of opinion was so fine that Russian disinformation (tweets and Russian media outlets) made all the difference? The healthier the democracy, the less likely it is that outsiders can subvert it. And surely both the Scottish referendum and the referendum on Brexit showed that the popular will can assert itself against the power of the establishment in both London and Edinburgh. Attempting to attribute the outcome of either, which some are trying to do, to Russian interference takes the biscuit.
Despite turning for evidence to the likes of Christopher Steele (of fake Trump dossier fame) and other hardliners, the committee does not find that the Russians had a “material” effect on the outcome of any political process. The long delay before issuing the report, which is itself heavily censored, aroused suspicion; though that is nothing unusual where security matters are concerned. Not surprisingly, after the despatch of assassins to British shores, however, Russia does find itself in the awkward position of being found guilty before all the evidence is in and this does no favours for the cultivation of better relations with London. The Bear begins to look all powerful. But that is President Putin’s fault. Somehow Moscow has to incentivise good behaviour on both sides.
Those who steadfastly opposed Britain’s exit from the European Union left no stone unturned in an attempt to block the will of the people as expressed by referendum. For them any and all arguments have been mobilised in support of their cause. So they were very disappointed that the report issued by the government did not openly state and demonstrate that the Russians interfered in the Brexit referendum. This has to be borne in mind when observing the whipping up of anti-Russian sentiment by some Members of Parliament and quarters of the media.
Jumping on the bandwagon the Deep State in Britain is now calling for even more draconian security laws than provided for under the catch-all Official Secrets Act that was promulgated in the feverish atmosphere in the run up to the First World War. Yet the way to deal with Russian cyber warfare is to master that sphere and retaliate asymmetrically, and there is no sign in the report that we are anywhere near that goal. To get there certainly does not require ever more restrictive infringements on the freedoms of the citizen. The way to prevent assassins arriving in Britain is actually to control the borders properly, which means detailed border security, something we have not had since the 1980s. It is so striking with respect to the Skrypal’ affair that the assassins were not spotted at the border and turned around, yet their entire trip to Salisbury and back could be monitored by ubiquitous security cameras.
It illustrates the fact that it is not the absence of laws that make it hard to get one step ahead of the Russian security organs, it is the lack of trained personnel and the failure to take precautions against Moscow seriously. It is a policing issue. What is not required is more hysteria and massive increases in expenditure on the armed forces, where money is wasted on high technology defence projects, aided and abetted by those who recently served at the Ministry of Defence, that somehow never see the light of day.
Novaya gazeta takes a look at what is going on, but has it properly understood the context?
На этот раз не только России, но и собственным элитам