Russia poses an increasing danger to Britain and the Government must be prepared to take steps to defend itself and its allies in the Baltic states, the former head of MI6 has said.
Sir John Sawers, who was head of the Secret Intelligence Service between 2009 and 2014, said UK defence spending should be increased to counter the security threat posed by Russian aggression.
“What is really important is that we are able to fulfil all our defence commitments, and I think that is going to require a reversal in the trend in defence spending. We are going to have to spend more on our defence and security because the threats are greater,” he told the BBC.
“The level of threat posed by Moscow has increased and we have to be prepared to take the defensive measures necessary to defend ourselves, defend our allies – which now extend as far as the Baltic states and central Europe. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy, because it isn’t.”
He added that the Ukraine crisis was only one symptom of the wider problem of Moscow and Vladimir Putin feeling “exposed”, highlighting a recent incident in which RAF aircraft were scrambled to escort Russian Bear bombers away from the coast of Britain.
“Europe and Russia are not converging with one another, so we’re going to have to find a new way to coexist,” Sir John said. “This crisis at the moment – it’s focused on Ukraine but Ukraine is a symptom.
“The real problem is how we live with a Russia which feels very exposed. Putin’s actions are ones of a leader who believes his own security is at stake. And here we’ve got nuclear bombers approaching the Cornish coast.”
Sir John added the modern world was “much more dangerous” than it had ever been, even during the Cold War.
“The stability that we had during the Cold War, or the predominance of the West that we had in the decade or two after the Cold War – that is now changing,” he said. “It’s a much flatter world, a much more multi-polar world, and there are real dangers associated with that.”