March 10, 2015
Russia under President Vladimir Putin is potentially the “single greatest threat” to Britain’s security, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.
He said that in the face of the “increasingly aggressive” stance of the Russian military, the effort to establish its intentions was now once again a “vital” element of the work of Britain’s intelligence agencies – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
“The rapid pace with which Russia is seeking to modernise her military forces and weapons combined with the increasingly aggressive stance of the Russian military including Russian aircraft around the sovereign airspace of Nato states are all significant causes of concern,” he said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London.
“We are in familiar territory for anyone over the age of about 50, with Russia’s behaviour a stark reminder that it has the potential to pose the single greatest threat to our security.
“Hence, continuing to gather intelligence on Russia’s capabilities and intentions will remain a vital part of intelligence effort for the foreseeable future. It is no coincidence that all of our agencies are recruiting Russian speakers again.”
His comments come after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned last month that there was a “real and present danger” that Mr Putin could try to de-stabilise the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – which, unlike Ukraine, are all members of Nato.
Mr Hammond said that Western countries now had to accept that their attempts since the end of the Cold War to draw Russia into the international order had been rebuffed.
“We are now faced with a Russian leader bent not on joining the international rules-based system which which keeps the peace between nations, but on subverting it,” he said.
“President Putin’s actions – illegally annexing Crimea and now using Russian troops to destabilise eastern Ukraine – fundamentally undermine the security of sovereign nations of Eastern Europe.