A concerted effort is required to stop Russia from sabotaging and distorting political life, warned Christopher Steele, a former MI6 official. Mr. Steele was the key informer involved with Trump-Russia dossier which allegedly disclosed the collusion between US President’s 2016 election campaign and Moscow. In an interview with Conservative MP Damian Collins, he cautioned that Russia is targeting all political parties. He added the United Kingdom has been “behind the curve” in deterring Russian activity.
Speaking on Mr. Collins’ podcast, Infotagion, Mr. Steele said political parties in the Kingdom are in range of tentacles thrown by Moscow either through donations or via cyber-hacking. He added that political parties must be proactive to avoid the damage and cooperate with the security agencies to avoid being targeted. The former spy argued that Russians’ aim was “to create great polarity, great partisanship and divisions within political life, the likes of which we have not seen in democracies before”.
He said the authorities in Kremlin were pursuing a mission to shatter consensus and push political debate to the extremes; Steele referred Brexit and other issues of political polarization in recent years as an example. The M16 officer in support of his claims provided the evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia inquiry, which made the report public last month. Steele further said that security officials have a habit of keeping themselves away from the intricate and highly sensitive political structures and prefer to remain busy with the national security challenges. He informed that he had told senior leadership of all political parties that they must display proactiveness in approaching MI5 and MI6.
Steele argued that that Russian money entering the Kingdom has bled into political life because of weak laws in insufficiently strict regulations, with parties being attacked either through charity funds or cyber-hacking sponsored by Moscow.
“It needs to be an organized counter-effort to make sure that this doesn’t distort and disrupt our political life,” he said.
This week, it was revealed that UK-US trade talks files leaked before 2019 election were stolen from Tory MP Liam Fox’s personal email. The documents which were later published online and used by Labour Party in their 2019 campaign to claim the NHS would be Jeopardized by the conservative government in charge of the Kingdom. Moscow meanwhile has denied any negative role and the acts of interference in UK’s domestic political scene. Fingers have also been pointed on the funds flowing into the Conservative Party from Russian diaspora residing in UK but the individuals who have embraced British nationality deny being part of any conspiracy at Moscow’s behest.
Ministers in the country are now reviewing the security laws that would require foreign agents to register in the country in future. Steele who is in favor of any such move also added that it needs to be drafted carefully for effectiveness.
“There are huge vulnerabilities that are created by democracy and by modern technology and we are not catching up quickly enough with how our adversaries are able to, and willing to, exploit those things without really strong retaliation and deterrence existing,” the former MI6 spy added.