Salisbury Incident

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 12th September 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Conservative, Aldershot 3:44 pm, 12th September 2018

It is a great honour to speak in this debate and to follow Stephen Kinnock, who has just given a superb example of the knowledge, experience and eloquence for which he has become renowned in this House. In my brief remarks, I will pick up on some of the themes he mentioned in relation to our broader security response.

What was so shocking about the appalling outrage in Salisbury, apart from its intrusive nature and the way it undermined our norms of behaviour and our sovereignty, was the extent to which it was an entirely brazen act. However, we must keep it in the context of a long list of brazen international acts by the Russian state that have violated the post-cold war security settlement in Europe and have sought to undermine the international norms that civilised states should observe in their interactions with one another. Some of that interference has been conventional, some of it has involved the use of cyber-warfare, and some has been a mixture of both—a classic form of hybrid warfare. We will all be aware of the long list of instances, starting in 2008 with the invasion of Georgia and moving through to annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, leading on to the downing of MH17 and the outrage in Salisbury.

Those events are well known, but less well known is the impact of Russian state activities in the cyber-sphere. In the Minister’s superb opening remarks, he mentioned the NotPetya virus, the most virulent that the world has ever encountered, which caused some $10 billion-worth of damage worldwide and had a significant impact in this country. I am delighted that the Government are enhancing our national counter-cyber-attack capability, and I commend the Minister for announcing £1.9 billion of extra funding until 2021 to turbocharge the tremendous work of GCHQ in countering the cyber-security threat that our country faces every day. I also commend the Minister for bringing forward improvements to our border security and defences. The proposals, which are going through Parliament in the form of the Counter-terrorism and Border Security Bill, will give our security forces, emergency services and Border Force the capacity to deal with state hostile activity on the same basis as they may deal with terrorist activity.

Winston Churchill famously declared that Russia was an impenetrable state, with motives that are hard to decipher. He said:

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

Churchill was speaking in 1939, but today, ironically, the reverse is true. The Russian state’s agenda on the world stage is very clear. It wants to dominate its neighbourhood, by force if necessary, and to undermine and overturn the international order, particularly the security order that we have enjoyed for a long time in post-cold war Europe. How do we guard against that? My simple belief, picking up on some of the themes discussed by the hon. Member for Aberavon, is that we and our allies need to achieve peace through strength. We must meet Russian threats with total resolve. The Prime Minister, in her response to the outrage in Salisbury, was a model of swift and resolute action, and the diplomatic coup that she managed to achieve—our expulsion of 23 diplomats followed by similar action by some 27 allied countries—was a remarkable triumph that sent a clear signal to the Russian state.