On Monday evening, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain will do more to counter Russian aggression.
Offering a "very simple message for Russia," May lamented Russian President Vladimir Putin's activities over the past three years. "Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe." The Prime Minister continued, "Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption."
Highlighting Russian propaganda efforts, May noted that Putin uses "state-run media organizations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions."
But it was May's pledge to "tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the UK" that was most striking.
It would be a 180-degree reversal.
Attracted by the money they inject into Britain's economy, Britain has long allowed Russian organized crime lords and Putin's assassins to run amok in the U.K. Ignoring these activities, Britain has become a fiefdom of thinly veiled Russian intelligence front organizations and intelligence recruiters.
May's words suggest a sea change in approach.
Another interesting comment came in the Prime Minister's unusually sharp warning that "the UK is not and will not be afraid to deploy its hard power where necessary." Here, May specifically referenced "our world leading covert agencies." British officials are normally loathe to talk about intelligence operations, so May's public statement suggests she'll order her intelligence services; MI5, MI6, the DIS, and GCHQ, to act more aggressively against Russia.
Yet we should also pay heed to the strategic timing of this speech.
After all, this week has brought a great difference in tone between the White House and Downing Street. Alongside her other comments, May concluded on a bleak note of resignation that only Russia can act to improve relations. "Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path. But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend."
Those words don't fit well with President Trump's stated desire to make concessions to Putin.
Regardless, there's no one better placed to lead this crackdown. Serving as home secretary for six years prior to becoming Prime Minister, May was responsible for MI5's counterintelligence operations. In turn, the Prime Minister is well aware of what the Russians get up to and has the knowledge base to stop them.