The head of the UK’s domestic intelligence service MI5, has warned the UK must be ready for Russian aggression for years to come.
Director General Ken McCallum said UK authorities, including his agency, face “adversaries from massive states who are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy.”
The West, he said, was in a contest in which our security values and democratic institutions are at stake.
“We are prepared for the long haul. These threats will not evaporate overnight.”
Ken McCallum said UK authorities face 'adversaries from massive states who are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy' Yui Mok
The intelligence chief had previously warned that the threats to Ukraine represented a “dark cloud on the horizon”.
“Now it is a grim reality, the human cost is sickening.”
But the Director General insisted “Putin is not winning. Not winning in Ukraine, where a counter offensive is making important advances. And not winning strategically, where rather than weakening Nato, Putin’s actions have doubled Russia’s land border with a strengthen alliance.”
Mr McCallum said he was proud of what UK and his intelligence service was doing to combat the threat from Russia, as well as other state actors including China and Iran.
“This year, a concerted campaign has seen a massive number of Russian officials expelled from countries around the world, including more than 600 from Europe - over 400 of whom we judge as spies.” He said.
He added this had struck the most significant strategic blow against the Russian intelligence services in recent European history and had taken Vladimir Putin by surprise.
“In the UK’s case, since the removal of 23 Russian spies posing as diplomats, we have refused on national security grounds over 100 Russian diplomatic visa applications.
“We have continued to work to make the UK the hardest possible operating environment for Russian covert action.
“Alongside assassination attempts, the Russian covert toolkit includes cyber attacks, disinformation, espionage, democratic interference and the use of Putin aligned oligarchs and others as tools for influence.”
The West, he said, was in a contest in which our security values and democratic institutions are at stake. Reuters
On China, the MI5 head said Beijing’s activities pose the most game changing strategic challenge to the UK.
“We see the Chinese authorities playing the long game and cultivating contacts to manipulate opinion in Chine’s favour.”
He said Iran was the state actor which most frequently crosses into terror.
“Iran with its proxies remains a profoundly destabilising actor.
Including supply of the the drones inflicting misery in Ukraine.
“Iran projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services.
“At its sharpest, it includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK based individuals, perceived as enemies of the regime.”
Ken McCallum said that MI5 had seen 10 such Iranian threats since January alone.
On the state threats the UK faces, he used a footballing analogy and said:
“Russia thinks nothing of throwing an elbow in the face and routinely cheats to get its way.
“We’ve had success in getting some of their players sent off. And for now they are a bit distracted by the blame game in their own dressing room, but they will keep attacking us.
“The Chinese authorities present a different order of challenge, they’re trying to rewrite the rule book, to buy the league, to recruit our coaching staff to work for them.
“And Iran will only let people support one team and is prepared to use violence on those supporting anyone else.”