Britain will face a full spectrum Russian threat for years to come, a new report has claimed.
The Kremlin’s use of hackers, trolls, paid protesters and misinformation are all part of a destabilisation strategy, Tory MP Bob Seely suggests.
In a peer-reviewed report for think tank the Henry Jackson Society, the Conservative MP says the covert and overt forms of malign influence used by Moscow should be termed contemporary Russian conflict.
He suggests the Kremlin considers non-military tools to be potentially more powerful than military tools, with instruments such as information warfare, cultural manipulation and social media hacktivism being used to achieve foreign policy goals without the use of direct force.
Mr Seely argues Russian President Vladimir Putin views the Western system, based on the rule of law and universal human rights, as antithetical to Russia and seeks to portray Russia a victim of Western action.
He said: From fake news aimed at Europe to the propaganda of RT, and from the occupation of Crimea to the streets of Salisbury, Russia is waging a very modern kind of conflict on the West.
Putin’s tactics owe much to the active measures practised by the KGB during the Cold War, subverting truth to undermine our faith in our institutions. He seeks to demoralise and divide us.
The report comes as General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the former deputy commander of NATO and a previous Director of Special Forces, said Russia has a “proclivity to break international law.
Speaking at the Hay Festival he said Russia has been pushing against the rules-based order that has kept the peace since the Second World War.
He suggested the former Soviet Union’s humiliation” at the end of the Cold War left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Russian political and military leaders and rekindled “the traditional Russian fear of being surrounded.
The retreat from Germany represented a reduction in global reach and influence and the collapse of an idea that so many of them believed in, he said.
Agreeing with Mr Seely’s report, General Bradshaw said that under the head of the Russian military, General Valery Gerasimov, Russia had developed a new way of war, which held profound dangers for NATO.
The blend of regular military activity with coercion, political agitation and extreme misinformation meant it was very difficult to get agreement in NATO to get the right things happening to deter such aggression, he said.
You can’t be quite sure the hand of a sovereign government is behind activity.
However, the General did not think Russia wanted conflict with NATO, as it would be disastrous for us all.
It was important to find common ground he said, as Mr Putin is much more dangerous weak than strong.
If it becomes existential for him, it could become existential for us, as he could take risk on something that could slide into conflict by accident, he cautioned.