Ukraine: UK ready to launch retaliatory cyber-attacks on Russia, defence secretary tells MPs

‘I’m a soldier, I was always taught the best part of defence is offence,’ says Ben Wallace – pointing to new ‘offensive cyber capability’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 21 February 2022 17:50 GMT
Ben Wallace threatens retaliatory cyber attacks on Russia

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The UK is ready to launch cyber attacks on Russia if Moscow targets Britain’s computer networks after a Ukraine invasion, the defence secretary has threatened.

In a Commons statement, Ben Wallace pointed to the “offensive cyber capability” the UK is already developing from a base in the north west of England.

“I’m a soldier – I was always taught the best part of defence is offence,” he told an MP who urged him to “give as good as we get back to Russia” if necessary.

Mr Wallace also stepped up UK threats by saying sanctions will be imposed for aggression that stops short of crossing the Ukraine border – amid criticism they have not yet been used.

Russian companies with links to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s regime will be targeted if, for example, a no-fly zone is imposed in Ukraine, or ports blockaded

“Many of these aggressive moves - like a no-fly zone, a blockade to free trade – would absolutely warrant a response ranging from sanctions and others,” the defence secretary said.

“Russia should be under no illusion that threatening the integrity of a sovereign nation, whether that is in the air or on the sea, is exactly the same as threatening it on the land.”

Sanctions have not yet been imposed in order to coordinate with the European Union, which has yet to announce what its package will be, Mr Wallace suggested.

He also argued President Putin is losing the war of words, ahead of any invasion – with Nato strengthening its eastern flank and Moscow all-but isolated internationally.

“Belarus is their only ally. If you want to be on your own and stuff everyone else, you end up like North Korea,” the defence secretary taunted.

Last March, Mr Wallace unveiled a new defence command paper, which promised a “National Cyber Force will lie at the heart of defence and GCHQ’s offensive cyber capability”.

In his statement on the current crisis, he said: “It has already been established and has started to grow. I cannot comment on the operations it will undertake.”

Mr Wallace said there is still a “strong cause for concern” that Russia is “still committed to invasion” – one that would lead to a “humanitarian crisis and widespread suffering”.

And he turned on Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, who called for a “reduction in the Nato presence on the border” if Russia pulls back in return.

“We didn’t put 165,000 combat troops on the edge of a sovereign country and hold a gun to the head of a democratically elected government,” Mr Wallace told him.

“We didn’t do that. Russia did that. We have nothing to deescalate from – Russia does.”

Mr Corbyn should “condemn the Stop The War Coalition”, he said, adding: “Maybe he’d like to go and ask the people of Ukraine who the aggressor is?”

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