21 Jul Christopher Steele: Ex-MI6 officer told MPs ‘rogue state’ Russia a ‘threat to UK democracy and way of life’ | UK News
President Vladimir Putin’s Russia poses “potentially the most significant threat” to the UK’s democracy and way of life, former MI6 officer Christopher Steele warned in written evidence submitted to the parliamentary Russia inquiry.
He accused ministers of failing to take a tough enough stance on Moscow and predicted that the UK would remain a target for Russian attacks.
Mr Steele had a particularly harsh assessment of Theresa May’s government, which was in power when he submitted the evidence in August 2018.
He accused it of putting political considerations ahead of national security in its handling of a dossier that he drew up in 2016 on alleged links between Russia and the election campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“In the case of the so-called ‘dossier’, this was initially handled appropriately by senior British intelligence professionals but, on reaching top political decision makers, a blanket appeared to be thrown over it and those who had produced or were associated with it,” Mr Steele wrote.
“No enquiries were made or actions taken thereafter on the substance of the intelligence in the dossier by HMG (Her Majesty’s Government).
“In this case, political considerations seemed to outweigh national security interests.
“If so, in my view, HMG made a serious mistake in balancing matters of strategic importance to our country.
“A prospective trade deal should never be allowed to eclipse considerations of national security.”
The former senior intelligence officer, who headed MI6’s Russia desk, warned that the UK is not doing enough to invest in its spy agencies to counter Russian aggression, backed up by the political will to take a tough line.
“If HMG does not formulate and implement a more effective Russia policy with some urgency, the UK inevitably will face increasingly damaging consequences as Russian corruption and a nationalist and xenophobic political export model takes hold,” he wrote, according to a copy of the evidence seen by Sky News.
“Decisive action and a greater allocation of resources to intelligence work on Russia would appear to be required.”
He said Moscow had an apparent “obsession” with the UK in part because of its large Russian émigré community and “vast amounts of illegitimate leadership wealth invested” in the country.
Mr Steele alleged that President Putin and those close to him have “a love-hate relationship” with Britain.
“They firmly believe that if they can bully, embarrass and humiliate the UK, this will cow others in Europe and elsewhere to tolerate, and in some cases further, their corrupt and amoral agenda.”
In his analysis, he wrote: “Overall, I would argue that Russia under Putin now represents potentially the most significant threat to the UK’s institutions and way of life.
“No terrorist group has to date successfully deployed a weapon of mass destruction, either nuclear or chemical, in the UK.
“Russia has deployed both. If not effectively deterred going forward, clearly Putin’s regime will stop at little to achieve its objectives.”
He claimed that Russia under President Putin had become a “rogue state” and a failure by Britain and its allies to deter Moscow’s activities has allowed this to happen.
Mr Steele listed a series of what he termed “paradigm shift” events involving the Putin regime’s policy and conduct.
They included the murder in London in 2006 of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, the meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and the attempted killing in Salisbury of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia.
“The most experienced Russia experts and intelligence operatives would not have predicted or expected any, let alone all of the above ‘paradigm shift’ events, despite the preceding ones, at any time before they happened,” he wrote.
“I certainly did not. The limited punitive response to each of these Putin regime outrages has been perceived as weakness and has encouraged the Kremlin to double down on its rogue behaviour, not least to impress an indoctrinated and gullible internal nationalist base of support.”
Setting out conclusions he drew from Russia’s action, he wrote that Moscow’s trajectory “is towards worse rogue behaviour at each stage”.
Mr Steele predicted: “The UK will continue to be a particular target for Russian rogue behaviour unless more effectively countered.”