Amid what would appear to be a steady march toward war with Ukraine, tensions between Russia and member nations of NATO continue to ratchet up. On Monday, the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, delivered a pointed message to the Kremlin regarding Moscow’s recent behavior that many in the West characterize as both aggressive and criminal in equal measure.
Alex Younger, head of Britain’s foreign spy agency, characterized Russia as a nation with a stance of “perpetual confrontation” with the West, and pulled no punches when it came to the UK’s belief that Russia was behind the recent attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer turned defector, in Salisbury, England earlier this year.
“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 said.
Last week, Russia blockaded the Kerch Strait, an integral waterway for Ukrainian military and commercial ships, following what they claimed was a violation of their sovereign waters by three Ukraine-flagged Navy ships. Russian vessels opened fire on the Ukrainian vessels, wounding six, before seizing all three and taking the crews prisoner. Ukraine has since ordered a state of martial law and begun calling up its military reservists in a build up toward what many now fear could be war between Russia and the former Soviet republic.
However, this is far from the only international mess that the Russian government has found itself in recently, with a rash of outed spy operations all across Europe not only compromising the identities of Russian GRU agents, but shining a light on Russia’s more nefarious international activities. Kremlin operatives have been implicated in a wide variety of international crimes gone wrong in recent months, ranging from the aforementioned attempted assassination of a former Russian military intelligence officer on UK soil, to a wide variety of cyber warfare efforts that led to more than 300 Russian hackers being outed through an FBI investigation.
Younger’s direct approach when it comes to the Kremlin echoes similar positions adopted by officials within the UK’s allies. While President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for seeming to be soft on Russia, and in particular, Russian president Vladimir Putin, high-ranking officials within his cabinet have shown no reservations in addressing what they perceive to be Russia’s malign activities.
“Mr. Putin is clearly a slow learner. He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating an animosity against his people,” American Defense Secretary James Mattis said of Russia’s international meddling over the weekend. “What we are seeing Putin do with his ripping up of international agreements … we’re dealing with someone that we simply cannot trust.”