British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the Kremlin of destabilizing eastern Ukraine, mounting a campaign of cyber espionage in Europe, and “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West.”
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London Monday, May’s unequivocal rebuke of Putin stands in marked contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump’s soft positions on Russian election interference.
“I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed,” May said in the speech.
Since the Putin administration annexed Crimea in 2014, May said, it has stirred up further conflict in Eastern Ukraine, violated the airspace of a multiple European countries, and mounted a sustained cyber espionage campaign that includes “meddling in elections and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defense and the Bundestag among many others.”
May said she that although she does not want a return to the Cold War or a state of “perpetual confrontation”, the U.K. “will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise.”
Her comments come in the wake of an October U.S. Senate intelligence hearing that revealed Russian electoral disinformation had reached 126 million people on Facebook alone. Senator Dianne Feinstein called the online manipulation of Americans the “beginning of cyberwarfare.”
In contrast, when questioned by journalists in Hanoi after he had chatted with Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation this weekend, Trump said: “I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election.”
He later hedged his remarks and said: “As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies.”