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UK calls on Russia to show post-Brexit strength – POLITICO

LONDON — With troops gathering on the Russia-Ukraine border, Britain senses an opportunity to demonstrate that it can be more diplomatically nimble since Brexit.

After leaving the EU, the UK rolled out its so-called Magnitsky sanctions – which allow the government to stop targets from entering the country, funneling money through UK banks or profiting economy. The UK has pledged economic sanctions of unprecedented strength against Russian individuals and businesses and has not ruled out targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In recent weeks, Britain has also sought to undermine Putin’s plans by releasing intelligence suggesting Russian security agencies are trying to replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Addressing the House of Commons last week, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain “will continue to expose [Russia’s] playbook, including false flag operations, as well as misinformation and cyberattacks.

While London has long spoken harshly to Russia, disseminating intelligence ahead of Putin’s bombings rather than blaming him afterwards, the UK government is keen to show it can now do things differently from the rest of the world. Europe.

The approach has been welcomed across the Atlantic, with the White House also quick to point the finger at what it considers Russian disinformation.

“We have no closer ally than the United Kingdom, and this inseparability has been demonstrated with our joint approach to aggression against Russia,” a senior State Department official said. Former US Ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner noted that the latest UK sanctions legislation could be “a major benefit of Brexit.”

Critics counter that the UK cannot be as effective outside the EU because it is shut out of key US-EU meetings. Although he was in Brussels at the time, Truss was not invited to talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign ministers last week.

Earlier this year, several EU governments discussed the possibility of inviting the UK Foreign Secretary to ad hoc discussions with their EU counterparts when major crises or challenges emerge, but on this occasion , the EU chose not to – although officials say it would have agreed.

“I’m afraid London has created an atmosphere where it doesn’t want to be part of EU coordination and therefore [Truss] was not invited, which I think is symbolic of the fact that Britain is not at all the tables where coordination is happening,” said Peter Ricketts, former British ambassador to France.

British officials counter that Truss and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace have been deeply engaged in talks with their European and American counterparts, through NATO and bilaterally, with multiple trips to EU capitals and transatlantic calls. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hopes to sign a trilateral agreement with Poland and Ukraine to strengthen cooperation in the face of Russian aggression.

Disclosure as a deterrent

The UK has a long history of calling for Russian aggression, recommending that former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi be charged with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, who died after being poisoned with polonium-210 in London in 2006, and accusing Russia of being responsible for the attempted murder of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, in 2018.

The tactic has kicked into high gear more recently, according to Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute.

“About 18 months ago, the UK decided that it would not just be about defending the rules-based order, but that it would move to active deterrence, penetrating into Russian space, being unpredictable,” he said. “The UK now believes that actually fighting Russia requires a policy of active deterrence. EU foreign security policy is about reacting to events that have already happened. He really has a hard time dissuading.

Douglas London, a former senior CIA operations officer and author of ‘The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence’, said it would be ‘helpful’ for the US to have a close ally calling the Russians by leaking intelligence. , but disclosure risks exposing sources and assets.

“It shouldn’t be done lightly because no matter how you declassify something, you’re giving your opposition an edge,” he said. “The Russians will seek to find out how the information was collected, so they will investigate where it might have leaked from: an agent, technical collection or mishandling.”

Others question the risk of leaking information, especially when several Ukraine watchers have questioned its accuracy.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the British statements “disinformation”.

Previously, the UK joined the US in attributing cyberattacks to the Russian intelligence agency GRU in October 2020.

Ciaran Martin, a professor at the University of Oxford and former chief executive of the National Center for Cybersecurity at GCHQ, said the UK was increasingly aware of the benefits of increasing transparency in cyberspace when it comes to hostile activities.

“I have long been a supporter of the UK’s approach of transparently exposing hostile state activity in cyberspace. I think it is useful and welcome that this approach has extended to the current crisis,” he said.

According to Martin, the benefits of attribution range from destabilizing attackers by showing that their activities are known, helping to equip defenders with real-time technical information, and instilling confidence in citizens that the government knows what that is happening.

The approach has certainly won praise at home, and at a time when the British Prime Minister is facing enormous political pressure due to the Partygate scandal. Many Conservative MPs and foreign policy analysts have hailed the government’s hardline approach to Moscow.

“There was a time when [French President Emmanuel] Macron was meeting Putin and was very sympathetic to him, in terms of presentation anyway,” said Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Moscow. “When Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary, it took him a visit to Moscow to realize that was not a profitable approach for us.”

Across the Channel, other Western allies – notably France – argue that such matters are best handled in private, Martin added.

Stopping the washing machine

The Achilles’ heel of the British response to Russia remains money laundering.

Chatham House, a leading foreign affairs think tank, has urged the UK to tackle money laundering by kleptocrats from Russia and post-Soviet republics, who have increasingly become donors influential members of the British Conservative Party.

In a report last month, he said Johnson’s party received £3.5million from naturalized British citizens of Russian and Eurasian descent between 2010 and 2019 – warning that the volume of donations appears to have increased since .

Some Tory backbenchers have become increasingly vocal about it, but they remain a minority. Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, warned last week that the UK’s efforts to support Ukraine risked being “undermined” if the government did not act to prevent ” dirty Russian money from circulating in our system”.

In response, Truss said on Monday that the government would introduce an economic crime bill to tackle illicit financing.

“Given London’s financial situation, London needs to lead by example on this issue and the government has failed to respond,” Melvin said. “There is a sense that this is an area that for some reason the Conservative Party is unwilling to address.”

Nahal Toosi and David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.


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