The head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service says Russia is losing steam in its invasion of Ukraine and has halved its spy capacity in Europe following the expulsion of more than 400 Russian intelligence officers cities across Europe and the arrest of several undercover spies posing as civilians.
Richard Moore, the head of MI6, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto at the Aspen Security Forum that since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, European countries have expelled “north of 400 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover” across the bloc.
“And we in the UK feel that probably halved their ability to spy for Russia in Europe,” Moore said. He added that a number of “illegals”, or Russian spies operating under deep cover and posing as ordinary civilians, have also been exposed and arrested in recent months.
Moore also said he thinks Russia may be “on the verge of running out of steam” in Ukraine.
“I think our assessment is that the Russians will find it increasingly difficult to supply manpower materials over the next few weeks,” he said. “They will have to take a break and that will give the Ukrainians a chance to fight back.”
“Their morale is always high,” Moore said, referring to the Ukrainians. “They’re starting to get more and more good weapons.” Russia, on the other hand, has failed significantly in its initial aims to take Kyiv and overthrow the government there and is using “cannon fodder” extensively for its offensives in eastern Ukraine, he said. -he declares.
When asked if the war in Ukraine has made Russia a “target-rich environment” for the UK and its allies to recruit potential assets, Moore would only reply that “we hope” that the Russians in the services intelligence and diplomatic “will reflect on what they are witnessing in Ukraine” and decide to “fight back against the system” as many did during the Prague Spring in 1968.
“Our door is always open,” he said.
Moore also echoed what CIA Director Bill Burns said at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health forum on Wednesday. “There is no evidence that Putin has any serious health problems,” he said. Burns told the forum that the United States believed Putin was “too healthy”, despite rumors and speculation that he might be ill.
Asked about the lessons China learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly regarding the possibility of Beijing trying to invade Taiwan, Moore said it was too early to tell. But he said Chinese President Xi Jinping was monitoring the conflict and how the United States and the West were responding to it “like a hawk”.
“I think he underestimates the determination and the power of the United States,” Moore said. “And that could lead him to miscalculate…especially on Taiwan.” Moore, however, said he does not believe a war between China and Taiwan is inevitable.
Moore said MI6 now devotes “more effort to China than any other subject”, but it is “still a fairly opaque system”.
“At some level, understanding Xi Jingping’s strategic intent is not difficult,” Moore said, citing Xi’s stated desire to dominate key technology spaces. “But if you go under that strategy in terms of implementation, organization, tactical intent, and what capabilities they’re developing, it’s a black box.”
Moore said it is clear, however, that the Chinese are “helping the Russians over Ukraine by buying their oil.” And while they’ve been “pretty conservative when it comes to military assistance” to Russia, “I’m sure if they could provide that and get away with it, they would,” he said. said. In terms of partnership between the countries, “Moscow is really the junior partner and the Chinese are really in charge,” he added.
Moore also addressed the Iran nuclear deal, telling Sciutto that while he thinks the deal should be revived, “I’m skeptical the Supreme Leader will accept the deal. I think the deal is absolutely on the table and the European powers and the administration are very, very clear about it. And I don’t think the Chinese and Russians on this issue would block it. But I don’t think the Iranians want it.