British PM to Russia: 'We know what you are doing'
Posted November 13, 2017 4:57 p.m. EST
(CNN) — UK Prime Minister Theresa May has strong words for Russia over what she called its attempts to "weaponize information" to sow discord and undermine Western institutions.
"We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed," she said on Monday. "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."
In a speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London, May accused Moscow of meddling in elections and planting fake news stories as part of "sustained campaign of cyberespionage and disruption." Since its annexation of Crimea, May said Russia had fomented conflict in eastern Ukraine, violated airspace of European countries, and hacked the Danish ministry of defense and the German Parliament.
"The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise," she said. "So we will take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity. But this is not where we want to be -- and not the relationship with Russia we want."
Her criticism comes amid mounting allegations that groups linked to Russia or the Kremlin itself meddled in elections and referenda, including Brexit, Catalonia's independence vote, and the 2016 US presidential election. Her comments are in stark contrast to President's Donald Trump's recent comment that he believed Vladimir Putin's denials of interfering in the 2016 US presidential elections.
May said that even as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, it remains committed to maintaining Europe's security through strong economic ties with allies and NATO. Such relationships will protect against security threats from Russia, she said.
"That is why we are driving reform of NATO, so this vital alliance is better able to deter and counter hostile Russian activity. It is why we have stepped up our military and economic support to Ukraine. It is why we are strengthening our cybersecurity and looking at how we tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the UK," she said.
She cited Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent comment that "when a state fails to observe universal rules of conduct and pursues its interests at any cost, it will provoke resistance and disputes will become unpredictable and dangerous."
"I say to President Putin, I agree. But it is Russia's actions which threaten the international order on which we all depend," she said. "We do not want to return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation."
International order faces other threats from regions where "the absence of strong states" has created instability and conflict, such as the Middle East.
"We see the spillover effects of this instability in the challenge of mass migration and humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen," she said.
She urged European and American allies to join the UK in stepping up efforts to contain and solve conflicts. She called attention to Yemen, Libya and Iraq and called for continued work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East peace process.
"As part of this, while we will stand firm in our support for the Iran nuclear deal, we are also determined to counter destabilizing Iranian actions in the region and their ballistic missile proliferation, working with the US, France and Germany in particular," she said.
"It is in all of our interests to get this right: to bring long-sought stability to the Middle East, ensure these growing economies can play their full role in the global system, and reinforce a rules-based international order."