By Declan Carey
RUSSIAN attacks on Britain from the inside will continue, foreign policy expert Dr Pete Duncan told Redaction Politics – and our national security is being undermined by powerful criminals with deep roots in the UK.
Speaking on the recent publication of the Russia report, Dr Duncan, Associate Professor of Russian Politics and Society at University College London, believes that Russian involvement in British democracy is ‘systemic’.
He said: “The report doesn’t say anything that we didn’t already know in terms of Russian involvement.
“For example with the Scottish referendum we already knew that Russia hoped for the victory of yes to independence, a clear example of that is the way they supported Alex Salmond by giving him a show on RT [Russia Today].
“But what is significant about it is that they bring it all together and link up the failure of the British Government and the intelligence services to investigate Russian activity.
“In other words saying that the powerful vested interests in Britain are undermining British national security.
“When they say that there’s a tension between the security agenda and the prosperity agenda, that’s a polite way of saying that these semi-criminalised money launderers who are on the fringes of the city of London, these people at the same time are giving money to the Conservative party in order to get the Conservative party not to kick up a fuss about Russia.
“For me, that explains why the response to all the Russian activity in Britain, the criminal activity.
“The murders go back before Litvinenko in 2006 and after Skripal who was poisoned in 2018, why these things haven’t been investigated properly.
“When you are dealing with the British state I know it’s always best to consider incompetence rather than corruption and malevolence, I see it all the time in connection with public authorities incompetence of one sort or another I’m afraid.
“But this is just so systemic, it goes on for so long, and it’s not the case that they haven’t noticed what is going on, but it’s an unwillingness to look to see what’s going on.
“The Government didn’t find any evidence of Russian interference because it wasn’t looking for any.
The Russia report revealed that Russia tried to affect the result of the 2014 Scottish Referendum with ‘influence campaigns’, but the publication did not assess whether the EU Referendum was targeted.
The inquiry, led by the Intelligence and Security Committee, concluded that the UK is ‘clearly a target’ and that the Government only realised the extent of Russian interference ‘belatedly’ after the EU Referendum.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds slammed the ‘systemic failings’ in the Conservative party’s security approach and demanded the Government do more to counter the ‘growing and significant threat’ from Russia.
Speaking ahead of an urgent question to the Home Secretary, Thomas-Symonds said: “The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia exposes deep systemic failings in Government approach to security.
“This report outlines the scale of the shortcomings of the Government’s response to maintaining our National Security in the face of what is clearly a growing and significant threat from Russia.
“The report outlines a litany of Hostile State Activity, from cyber warfare, interfering in democratic processes, acts of violence on UK soil and illicit finance.
“On every level, the Government’s response does not appear to be equal to the threat.
“While on key issues it is clear that there is no overall strategic response to this challenge – little wonder the Government have been so keen to delay the publication.
“The UK has world-leading Security Services, yet this report makes clear they have not received the strategic support, the legislative tools or the resources necessary to defend our interests.
“The Government need to urgently outline how they will address these systemic failings.
“The report should also sound alarm bells ringing that other countries that wish the UK harm are undertaking similar activities and are not facing a sufficiently robust response.”
The city of London is a key component in Russian activity in Britain Dr Duncan explains, but despite the success of removing 153 diplomats after the Salisbury poisoning in 2018, the Government is unlikely to do anything to stop democratic interference.
“London is a marvellous place for Russia to launder money through because it is linked up to so many off-shore places, so many British independent territories.
“Russia wants to keep London open for business and they like the idea of having property in London because they think it’s safe and it’s going to increase in value.
“There’s also a number of Russians here in opposition to the regime, one thinks first of all of Berezovsky who is quite openly, some might say outrageously, in opposition to Putin, before his unnatural and untimely death, and he called in 2007 for a revolution in Russia.
“London has become the capital for money laundering for Putin and his cronies and oligarchs on the one hand and the centre of exiled opposition on the other.
“I don’t think the Government will do anything about it, I think the reason they wanted to have Chris Grayling as the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee was so that they would have a majority on the committee led by Grayling.
“However much he is a failing Grayling he is a loyal Grayling, who would have done as told, which would have been to bury the report, not to publish it.
“What they did after Sailsbury was actually very effective and symbolic. 28 other countries plus NATO kicking out 153 diplomats altogether.
“That really upset the Russian spy network around the world.”
Boris Johnson defended his party at Prime Minister’s Questions, citing his previous work as Foreign Secretary during Russia’s poison attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.
When quizzed on the report from Labour leader Keir Starmer, Johnson said: “Actually when I was foreign secretary and for the period that I have been in office we’ve been taking the strongest possible action against Russian wrongdoing.
“Orchestrating I seem to remember the expulsion of 153 Russian diplomats around the world while the right honourable gentleman opposite sat on his hands and said nothing while the Labour party parroted the line of the Kremlin when people in this country were poisoned at the orders of Vladimir Putin.”
Opposition MPs took to Twitter to highlight the lack of preparation for coordinated attacks against British democracy.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy blasted the Government for having ‘no clear strategy’ and not acting quickly enough to defend the country.
Are attacks on Britain likely to continue? Dr Duncan believes they are already happening.
“The cyber attacks are continuing and the National Cyber Security Centre says that there are lots of continuing cyber attacks from Russia, China, and Iran.
“I would expect that there will be more attacks inside Britain carried out by Russian intelligence services.
“There is a hope that after they really made a mess of the Skripal poisoning, when they looked really silly and then the GRU was found to be in possession of chemical weapons and they were caught red-handed there, there’s a hope that they would stop being so willing to carry out their attacks abroad.
“But it has carried on, particularly Chechens are being killed at the moment in different European countries at the moment, I’m sure that there will be more of those sort of attacks.”
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