UK Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon used a speech at the University of St Andrews to warn of a sustained campaign of cyber attacks carried out by Russia against the West.
According to Sir Fallon, Russia is ‘weaponising information’ in a bid to destabilise Western democracy and critical infrastructure, drawing upon past incidents such as the TV5Monde hack and the recent US Presidential election.
“There is the use of cyber weaponry to disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery,” said Sir Michael Fallon.
“France knows this. In April 2015 TV5Monde was taken off air by a group calling itself
the Cyber Caliphate. French investigators suggested the Kremlin was behind the cyber-attack.”
The Defense Secretary went on to point to possible future attacks, saying that “the Head of the German BfV intelligence agency warned the Kremlin is “seeking to influence public opinion and decision-making processes” ahead of this year’s German elections.”
In response to Russia’s clear testing of NATO and the West, Sir Fallon said that it was in the UK’s interest to “ keep NATO strong and to deter and dissuade Russia from this course.” Calling upon other EU member states, Sir Fallon said:
“It’s vital we demonstrate NATO is as essential to peace now as it was then. President Trump is 100% backing NATO and Europe needs show that it does too. 19 of the 28 EU member states don’t spend 1.5% of GDP on defence; five (and by no means the poorest five) don’t spend 1%. After we leave, EU counties will pay only 20% of NATO’s bills.”
Sir Michael Fallon also called on NATO to place the same importance on cyber defense as it does to defend on land, sea and air. In what may prove to be a precursor to Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to an informal summit in Malta, in which the PM plans to press EU NATA countries about their defence spend, Sir Fallon said:
“Alliance members are strengthening their capability, collectively and individual, to resist any form of attack. The UK is playing its part by almost doubling our investment on defensive and offensive cyber capability to £1.9 billion.”
In a speech which made reference to new President Donald Trump on a number of occasions, Sir Fallon advocated the use of both deterrence and dialogue to tackle the threat from Russia – a point, which Sir Fallow says the new US President ‘understands’.
“We need to understand Russia better, and vice versa, because the risk of miscalculation is real,” said the UK defence chief.
However, although the speech was focused on the Russian threat, Sir Michael Fallon did highlight the good with the bad.
“Earlier I spoke about the future prospects for Russia/UK relations.
“They are not as bleak as painted.”
Pointing to the Iran nuclear deal and common interests in Afghanistan, while also reminiscing about the British Artic convoys which helped Russia in WWII, Sir Fallow said that there was ‘some hope for the future.”
“Russia could again become the partner the West always wished for. We could dare to hope that, to quote Bulgakov again, “everything will turn out right, the world is built like that.”