Beware of Russian & Chinese Spies: M15 Boss and US Treasury Secretary Warn of Threats to the West

Written by | Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Britain’s top domestic spymaster has earlier this week (14 July) cautioned the population to treat the threat of spying from Russia and China as vigilantly as terrorism, warning that foreign spies were seeking to attack infrastructure, sow disacord and pilfer technology. In his annual threat update, the Security Service (MI5) Director General Ken McCallum said in a speech at MI5 headquarters Thames House that British intelligence had clocked 10,000 disguised approaches by foreign spies seeking to manipulate ordinary people in Britain. While the 9/11 attacks on the United States about 20 years ago made tackling terrorism the biggest priority for Western intelligence agencies, the growing assertiveness of Russia and China has since turned some attention of the West’s most powerful spymasters back to old-fashioned counter intelligence, or spies tracking other spies a constant cat-and-mouse game.
The consequences of spying by foreign powers can range “from frustration and inconvenience, through loss of livelihood, potentially up to loss of life,” McCallum said. But “we must, over time, build the same public awareness and resilience to state threats that we have done over the years on terrorism,” he added. British spies say Russia and China have independently sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property as well as to interfere in politics and sow misinformation. But Moscow and Beijing say the West is gripped with a paranoia about plots, steadfastly denying they meddle abroad, seek to steal technology, carry out cyberattacks or sow discord. MI5 began as a counter-intelligence service 1909, first focusing on the threat from Germany and then, after World War Two, focusing on the Cold War threat posed by the Soviet Union’s agents.
McCallum’s warning has come in the wake of a joint communiqué by 30 NATO leaders last month in which they placed China on a par with Russia as an explicit danger to Western allies after a NATO summit in Brussels (14 June). “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” the joint communiqué read. But Beijing has accused the US of trying to sow discord in its relations with Europe and called on European nations not to tie themselves to the US strategy – and vowed to take action against NATO. Analysts say China has sought to emphasize the differences in interests between the US and the European nations.
Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has this week made a new push in Brussels to repair US ties with the EU, urging members of the bloc to help confront Russia and China. In her first visit as Treasury chief to the European capital, Yellen hearkened back to the partnership and “rules-based international order” constructed after World War II — before calling out three countries she said imperiled that order. “Together, we need to counter threats to the principles of openness, fair competition, transparency and accountability,” Yellen said. “These challenges include China’s unfair economic practices, malign behavior, and human rights abuses; the Lukashenka regime’s ongoing abuses in Belarus; and Russia’s continued and growing malign behavior,” she said in some of her most pointed criticisms to date of Moscow and Beijing. Yellen‘s remarks also underscore the intentions of President Joe Biden to mend trans-Atlantic bonds that were severely strained under Donald Trump.

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