UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said that Russia poses a real threat to NATO. Speaking in front of the Joint Royal Institute for Secretary and Defence Research during a pre-election debate, Wallace argued that Russia was testing the alliance’s “resolve” by exploiting the situation in Ukraine
“There is a real threat of Russia, for example towards NATO. That bit by bit, chip by chip, tests our resolve”, Wallace said Thursday, while replying to a question about NATO’s contemporary role. “[Russia] uses Ukraine to do that partly, uses hybrid warfare on our Nordic flanks to do that and that means, the message is, there is a threat, the public need to understand that threat, we need to communicate that better”.
Wallace, who previously served as the UK’s Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, noted that the only way to resolve the “Russia threat” was through international cooperation together with NATO and the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and Great Britain as well as the European Union where appropriate. The secretary cited a recent case of Russian diplomats being expelled from the UK as an example of a successful “push back”. This followed hot on the heels of accusations against Moscow of poisoning former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018.
The comments by Britain’s defence secretary were made with regard to French President Emmanuel Macron’s remark that NATO was experiencing “brain death” because European countries could no longer rely on the United States to defend them anymore. Macron’s statement caused a flurry of responses, including from NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who condemned his words as “drastic”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also confronted President Macron's statement by saying that the bloc was very much “alive”. For its part, Moscow has refused to comment on Macron’s remarks, saying that “we are not forensic pathologists” to provide any estimate on NATO’s condition.
Not The First, Not The Last?
UK politicians have long been accusing Russia of using non-military tactics to influence political processes and election results in the European Union and the United States, including allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Britain is currently preparing to release a report on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 referendum, which was delayed until after the 12 December general election, despite already having been approved by the intelligence community. The delay has been opposed by many lawmakers calling the decision to postpone the dossier’s release politically motivated.