Russia’s Hybrid War Against the UK: Time to Fight Back Against the Kremlin

By Neil Barnett and Helena Ivanov

Western governments have been complacent about Russian hybrid warfare in the last 15 years, according to a newly published think tank report.

At a geopolitical level, much has been written lately describing how this Western weakness has emboldened Russia, culminating in the invasion of Ukraine. Weakness, as ever, is a provocation.

This report focuses on the ongoing threat towards the UK and, by extension, to other democracies.

In refusing to properly deal with the Russian hybrid warfare threat, the report argues that Western governments have allowed:

  • Their political systems to be distorted;
  • Espionage operations and personnel to flourish;
  • Tainted money to be laundered;
  • Kremlin opponents to be assassinated with impunity.

The invasion of Ukraine serves as an alarm signal: this situation must be decisively brought to an end. Sanctions, energy policy and defence assistance to Ukraine are all important, and are rightly the focus of attention at this point.

But now is also the moment to enact domestic measures to reduce the threat and isolate Russia further. Just as Ukraine’s heroic defence has shown that the Russian armed forces are far less of a threat than Kremlin propaganda would have us believe, so in the grey zone of hybrid warfare, a determined defence can cut the adversary down to size; Russia’s successes in the last 15 years were in large part a result of the defenders being absent.

The report includes a series of recommendations in the fields of intelligence and security, media and law. Taken together, they would rapidly deny access to Russian espionage, subversion and influence operations. Equally, by intelligent targeting, the measures would have only minimal impact on the overall openness of British society, while preserving the rule of law.



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