The head of MI6 warned Russia against underestimating the UK’s capabilities, accusing the Kremlin of using “military-grade chemical weapon on UK soil,” during a speech at a university in Scotland.
In only his second major speech since his appointment as Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in 2014, Alex Younger took aim at Moscow over the Salisbury poisoning and their stance of “perpetual confrontation” with the West.
Ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned and hospitalized in Salisbury in March. The Russian government was immediately blamed by London, accusations that Moscow has consistently denied. While the UK steadfastly refused the Kremlin’s offer of a joint investigation. The incident led to the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War.
“Our intention is for the Russian state to conclude that, whatever the benefits it thinks it is accruing from this activity, they are not worth the risk,” the man known by the code-name ‘C’ said.
“I urge Russia or any other state intent on subverting our way of life not to underestimate our determination and our capabilities, or those of our allies,” he added.
Arguing that the “Russian state seeks to destabilize us,” Younger insisted that the aggression was one way, adding: “we do not seek to destabilize Russia. We do not seek escalation.”
Younger is the latest UK government official to attack Russia. Beside from near constant rebukes from the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming said Russia posed an ‘active’ threat to the international community in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning.
The heightened rhetoric has resulted in questionable reports and accusations being leveled at the Kremlin, including that of a UK based think tank that there were some ‘75,000 Russian informants’ in the country.
While Russia was the only adversary named by Younger, the spy chief did note that the global balance was shifting east, warning that Britain’s reliance on Chinese-made emerging technologies is a growing issue.
Younger was at the university on a recruitment drive. MI6 are looking to recruit outside of the elite universities of Oxford and Cambridge that traditionally supply the service. Despite these apparent intentions, Younger chose to speak at elite St. Andrews University, where Prince William and his wife Kate were educated.
“I want to speak to young people who have never seen themselves in MI6. It doesn’t matter where you are from,” Younger said. “If you want to make a difference and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step forward.”
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