The recently released Modernising Defence Programme directly refers to Russia as a threat, citing recent Russian activity.
The 2015 National Security Strategy and SDSR identified four challenges likely to drive UK security priorities, listed again in the MDP:
- increased terrorism, extremism and instability
- resurgence of state-based threats and competition
- the impact of technology (especially cyber threats)
- the erosion of the rules-based international order.
The MDP, say the Government, has put the UK on the best footing to be able to meet these threats. The report states:
“After almost three decades of relative international stability, the world has now reentered a period of persistent and intense state competition.
Across Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the level of overt and covert state aggression has grown in recent years. Our adversaries and competitors have become adept at exploiting the seams between peace and war, engaging in what we call ‘hostile state activity’. Cyber-attacks, assassination, disinformation, theft of intellectual property, espionage and military intimidation are all being used more regularly and more ruthlessly.
The result is an increased risk of miscalculation, potentially leading to escalation and the chance of state-onstate confrontation. Significant pressure is being placed on the rules-based international system that underpins our prosperity and security, threatening to distort or undermine it.
Russia in particular is making extensive use of these methods. The use of the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury was appalling and unacceptable. Kremlin information operations pollute the public conversation in democratic nations across the world. The GRU – Russia’s military intelligence service – has been caught in a campaign of reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attacks. It targets business, media and people going about their daily lives, as well as international institutions like the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Russia provides separatists in Ukraine with advanced technology, while it attempts to intimidate and coerce the government with military manoeuvres.”
This year’s National Security Capability Review also found that these challenges have become more complex, intertwined and dangerous since 2015, and had developed at a faster pace than we anticipated.