- REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
- Boris Johnson warned that Britain can and will match Russia in cyber warfare.
- He made the comments on the first visit by a UK foreign secretary to Moscow in more than five years.
- His Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said: “Our relations are at a low”
LONDON – Boris Johnson has used a visit to Russia to warn Vladimir Putin that Britain is ready and able to retaliate against cyber attacks as the two nations look to repair bilateral relations.
The UK Foreign Secretary on Friday told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that Britain does not behave disruptively online but is capable of fighting fire with fire when it comes to cyber warfare tactics.
GCHQ recently told the Intelligence and Security Committee that Britain has developed “the full spectrum” of offensive cyber weapons, “from tactical stuff [redacted] right through to what we would say is the high end of counter-state offensive cyber capabilities which might never be used.”
Johnson is the first UK foreign secretary to visit Russia in five years following a period which has seen relations between London and Moscow deteriorate ever since the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
Lavrov described UK-Russia relations as at a “low” heading into his meeting with Johnson. Neither side expects a breakthrough in attempts to improve relations, according to The Guardian.
In a frosty press conference held this morning, Lavrov told Johnson: “Our relations are at a low. You prefer to talk about the reasons why publicly.”
Johnson responded: “As you say Sergey, things are not easy between us at the moment.”
It’s already getting tasty. Lavrov to Boris: “Our relations are at a low. You prefer to talk about the reasons why publicly”. pic.twitter.com/iGXcfaZpgT
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) December 22, 2017
Johnson’s warning to Russia comes after Theresa May last month accused the Kremlin of running a covert propaganda war using fake news to “sow discord” in the west and “meddle in elections.”
The prime minister said in a November speech that the West needed to tackle Putin’s regime which had become the biggest threat facing “open economies and free societies” across the globe.
“[Russia] is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions,” May said.
“So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. 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.”
Speaking prior to his visit to Russia, Johnson said: “We have a relationship with Russia that spans over 450 years.”
“Our similarities and historical links far outweigh our current political disagreements. The Kremlin has positioned Russia in direct opposition to the west, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The Kremlin continues to deny all allegations of meddling in western affairs and was wary of Johnson’s visit.
“Picking and choosing dialogue on issues of interest for Britain, as British officials have been saying in their public statements, is inadequate … and of little added value to us,” Russian government spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.