“Russian influence in the UK is the new normal.”
Those are the opening words of a document sent out to the British press summarising the long awaited “Russia Report”.
The delayed report from the Intelligence and Security Committee concluded ministers “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes”.
The committee, which scrutinises the work of Britain’s spy agencies, was very critical of intelligence services for failing to take more robust action to protect the UK’s democratic processes from Moscow’s interference in both the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit referendum.
While some of the report won’t be available to the public or press for security reasons, the summary reiterates something we already knew: that Russia wants to influence Western politics.
It would appear that those at Leave.EU are celebrating, claiming that the report has killed the “Kremlin conspiracy” that Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks may want to reread what has been said. There is no damning evidence because the Government didn’t investigate the Kremlin’s potential role in swaying the Brexit vote – even after 2014. There can be no evidence when there’s no investigation.
While calls for an investigation have already been rejected by the Government, it’s clear that those on the committee feel a closer examination of Russian meddling is needed. Even if a thorough investigation by security services found concrete evidence of Kremlin interloping, it would be impossible to gauge how much sway it had in the likes of a Brexit referendum. Conclusions would be politicised depending on what side you sit – just look at what happened in America.
Going forward more scrutiny is needed from both intelligence services and MPs from all parties. The report specifically calls out David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson for turning a blind eye to Russian interference from 2014 onwards.
The report lays bare that Putin and his disinformation empire are here to stay.