May is declaring 'mission accomplished' against Russia's spies – but recent setbacks may see them up their game

Russian intelligence was very good in the past and could well be again in the future

Monday 12 November 2018 17:38
Emergency services in Salisbury after the Skripals were found
Emergency services in Salisbury after the Skripals were found

One of the main reasons that the Kremlin felt confident enough to carry out the novichok attack, it has been claimed, was because of Britain’s failure to take strong retaliatory measures after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Theresa May was home secretary at the time of the dissident’s death through polonium poisoning 12 years ago. As prime minister she has once again vowed tough action against Moscow following the attempted assassination of former MI6 spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, pledging not to rest until the nefarious acts of Vladimir Putin’s government were “exposed” and its intelligence network “dismantled”.

In her address at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the City of London Mrs May effectively declared “mission accomplished” by maintaining Russia’s intelligence capabilities have been degraded for years to come. She also took the opportunity to offer Mr Putin a path back to warmer relations with the UK if he mends his ways and stops carrying out attacks on the west.

It is indeed the case that the expulsions of Russians working under diplomatic credentials by the UK and its allies after Salisbury had an effect. Mrs May said at the time, back in March, that Russia’s espionage network in the west has been “dismantled” and “crippled”, and it is the case that losing 115 personnel would be a blow to most services.

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