'Foreign operations by private Russian security groups allow the Kremlin to get away with murder while denying it has blood on its hands, the UK defence secretary has said.
Days after a speech in which he appeared to threaten to send aircraft carriers to confront China in the South China Sea, Gavin Williamson again struck a bellicose tone, risking further damage to an already dire relationship with Russia by accusing it of acting recklessly over the Salisbury novichok attack and trying to goad the west into a new arms race.
“We’ve seen Russian recklessness and disregard for life on the streets of Britain,” Williamson told the Munich security conference, an annual gathering of global foreign and defence officials.
“The Kremlin is also taking the fight into the ‘grey zone’. Operating without rules using espionage, military, political, cyber, economic and even criminal tools to undermine its competitors … Their clandestine use of proxies – mercenary armies – like the infamous and unaccountable Wagner group, allows the Kremlin to get away with murder while denying the blood on their hands.
“Nato matters more today, because an old adversary is very much back in the game,” he added, accusing Russia of breaching the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty and “trying to goad the west into a new arms race it simply is not interested in and does not want, making the world a less safe place”.
Russia suspended the INF treaty this month after Washington announced it would withdraw in six months unless Russia ends what the US says are violations of the 1987 pact. Moscow denies those allegations and says Washington is the one flouting the rules. It has accused the US of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty it wanted to leave anyway in order to develop new missiles. Washington has denied that.'
Read more: Gavin Williamson: Russia is getting away with murder
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