Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:49 pm, 6th September 2018

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, but there is no “in effect” about it. The words “war crime” are bandied about quite often, but dropping a bomb on a hospital—is it in chapter 35 of book 4 of the Geneva conventions?—is absolutely specifically forbidden. There can be no other interpretation, yet for the past year and a half it has become one of the key de facto means of war in Syria.

Let me now turn briefly to Russia because I want to suggest some ideas to the Minister. Since March, the Government have been sensible and robust in the measures they have taken, but I believe it might be useful for them to consider some additional ideas, which I have outlined in an article today, when dealing primarily with the Russian threat but also more generally with the subversive threat to the United Kingdom. First, we need to systematically expose what the Kremlin is doing, not on an ad hoc basis through the Foreign Affairs Committee or other Committees, but by setting up a small, permanent, multi-agency group whose role is to understand and expose those subversive activities.

In the 1970s and ’80s the United States had such a group. It was called the Active Measures Working Group and was reckoned to be extremely successful in investigating and exposing Russian—then Soviet—subversive activities. Such subversive activities were called “active measures” in those days, but they meant assassinations, propaganda, smears, blackmail and all those other forms of spy warfare, with occasional support for terrorist groups and so on. I believe we need such a group now. It does not have to be big, and it could be seconded from other Departments, but I believe we need something more than what is done on an ad hoc basis.

Secondly, we need to introduce a list of PR agents, reputation management firms and others who work as agents for Russian influence in the UK, either directly or via proxies or third parties. Thirdly, we must consider laws that introduce a health warning on broadcasters. A counter-propaganda Bill is currently going through Congress to do just that, and we should consider the same thing. Fourthly, as I have mentioned, we need properly to fund World Service TV and radio, and specifically the Russian service.

Fifthly, we need to look at our visa regime, which I know my colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee are extremely concerned about. For Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other states from the former Soviet bloc, we make it very easy for oligarchs—basically kleptocrats—to come here, but very difficult for ordinary people. I believe we should make it much easier for ordinary Ruskies, and ordinary Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis and Kazakhstanis to come here if we judge them to be decent to do so, and much more difficult for the people who have stolen their money in the first place. We need to flip the system around.

Sixthly, the FCO needs to be more active in seeing Russian influence in the round. My hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat made, expertly as ever, a point about Nord Stream 2, which is not just a commercial venture; it is a critical piece of geopolitics that will affect Europe for years to come. We should have been much more active.