In a speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London on Monday, November 13, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Moscow of planting "fake news" to sow discord in the West, while suggesting also that Russia had been meddling in elections in Europe as well as the US.
Speaking out against "the scale and nature" of Russia's actions, she said it was "threatening the international order on which we all depend."
Listing Russia's alleged attempts to undermine Western institutions, Mrs. May said: "I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.
"The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise," added the prime minister, whose foreign secretary Boris Johnson will visit Moscow before the end of the year as part of a strategy of engagement with Vladimir Putin's administration.
We are approaching a defining moment in the history of our nation and our place in the world. Last night I outlined why I believe we should embrace this with confidence and optimism: https://t.co/bj7ZrA7bzY pic.twitter.com/HZgXORsCVw— Theresa May (@theresa_may) November 14, 2017
All About Brexit
Dr. William McDougall, a senior lecturer at the Department of Social Services, Media and Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University, said he believes her comments were designed to show that Britain will remain a major force and influence after the UK leaves the European Union.
"Theresa May's remarks should be seen in the context of Brexit. She is attempting to demonstrate that Britain is still an important international player and will not be diminished outside of the EU," Dr. McDougall told Sputnik.
Her views came just days before the foreign secretary and environmental secretary Michael Gove sent a letter to the prime minister insisting she forces through a "hard" Brexit.
The "Orwellian" tone of the language used in the leaked letter sparked outrage among some cabinet members.
The PM said that as the UK left the EU and charted a new course in the world, Britain remained absolutely committed to NATO and securing a Brexit deal which "strengthens our liberal values."
No Evidence, But Russia Did It Anyway
During her speech at the Guildhall, Mrs. May did admit that Russia could be a valuable partner of the West, but only if it "plays by the rules."
"Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path. But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend."
"Russia has repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber-espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in elections and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defense and the Bundestag among many others," the prime minister said.
In May, 2017, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency accused Russian rivals of gathering large amounts of political data in cyber attacks, and said it was up to the Kremlin to decide whether it wanted to put it to use ahead of Germany's elections on September 24. However, even the New York Times, in an article titled German Election Mystery: Why No Russian Meddling? pointed out that just days before the vote, there was no sign of Moscow attempting to meddle in Germany's electoral process.
The Russian president congratulated Angela Merkel on her win in the elections, according to the Kremlin and both leaders confirmed their readiness to continue mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
The majority of the educated European public actually believe that the US exerts its influence over elections in other countries, according to a public poll conducted by the leading French pollster Ifop.
Mrs. May did not comment, however, whether she was concerned with Russian intervention in any UK democratic processes.
Mrs. May's foreign secretary Mr. Johnson however, conceded earlier that there is no evidence to suggest Russia has ever sought to interfere with British votes.
Asked on Wednesday, November 1, whether he believed Russia had any involvement in the UK election, he said:
"No, I haven't seen any [evidence], not a sausage… as far as I know they have played no role."
Ben Bradshaw, a Labour MP, has however called for a judge-led inquiry into the possibility that Moscow tried to influence the result of the Brexit referendum.
Насчет фейковых новостей: пусть Мэй вспомнит ложь Блэра об Ираке, постоянную ложь своих СМИ о Сирии и Украине. Вот они откуда, fake news.— Алексей Пушков (@Alexey_Pushkov) November 14, 2017
Tweet: "Regarding fake news: [Theresa] May should recall Blair’s lie about Iraq, constant lies in the [UK] media about Syria and Ukraine. This is the source of fake news."
#UK Prime Minister @theresa_may on @Russia: “We know what you are doing”. We know what YOU are doing as well. Dear Theresa, we hope, one day you will try Crimean #Massandra red wine🍷 pic.twitter.com/XmqT9ghSef— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) November 14, 2017
"I strongly disagree with the statement that Russia allegedly tries to undermine the 'international order'. This is a display of double standards… Like the United Kingdom, Russia is not seeking to return to the Cold War. We are ready to develop mutual dialogue and partnership relations. However, this process should be mutual and on equal and parity conditions," senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky who heads the Russian State Duma's (lower house) International Affairs Committee, said.
Russia's ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko said earlier this month that any notion of Russian interference in Brexit is "insulting."
"Allegations Russia is behind Brexit are an insult to British political leadership and the British people. The referendum was a 2015 election promise of David Cameron, who was hardly thinking about Russia. Now Brexit talks have become the main foreign policy challenge for London, there is a temptation to find a scapegoat — Russia. I call on British politicians and journalists to stop promoting a fake agenda, and stop trying to solve Britain's own problems at Russia's expense," Mr. Yakovenko previously told Sputnik.
Mrs. May's speech also attracted reactions on social media, with many questioning her decision to launch an "attack" on Russia to disguise her own problems much closer to home, such as the Westminster sex scandal, the shaky Brexit talks, and Cabinet fall-out that resulted in two resignations in the space of a week.
Why does the press keep placing so much credence in their own reporting of the Russian meddling without any credible evidence? They just use each other as sources, and say "See, there's your proof" Ridiculous.— stephenfullerton (@trisporter717) November 14, 2017
“Crime is falling” — Theresa May when crime was rising— David Videcette (@DavidVidecette) November 14, 2017
“Stop crying wolf” — Theresa May to police when told her cuts would lead to catastrophic consequences, as they have
“We know what you are doing” — Theresa May on Russia when Boris Johnson said last week here was no evidence https://t.co/cnRDwCV6hR
Mrs. May's speech was also in contrast to those of US President Donald Trump, who earlier this month, at the APEC summit in Vietnam, said he believed President Putin denying that Russia had intervened in the 2016 presidential election.
"He [Putin] said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times… He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it. He says, 'I didn't do that.' I think he is very insulted by it," Trump said.