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UK’s top spy downplays Russia, warns on China

The UK’s top spy, in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times of London, has said that the West and China will compete globally over the medium term while downplaying the importance of Russia in global affairs.

Britain’s outgoing spy chief, Sir Alex Younger, said that the West has labored for too long under the misguided assumption that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would become more liberal as it became more wealthy, which has caused Western governments to underestimate China.


“The idea that as they matured and became richer they were going to become more like us is for the birds,” Younger told the Financial Times about the CCP.

“I think you’re seeing a steady but definite ideological divergence taking place. There will be at least two dominant value systems on one planet into the medium term and that’s just a fact and it’s where we are going,” he added about the Chinese-Western divide.

On the other hand, Younger lays for the blame for the divide between Russia and the West mostly at the doorstep of the West.

He said that the West has to avoid making too much of Russian propensity to try to meddle in Western affairs and “do Russia’s job for them” by overreacting to small Russian provocations.

“His own analysis is that Vladimir Putin’s government is threatened by the quality of western democratic institutions and alliances and sets out to disrupt them as a matter of policy. Yet he seems unimpressed with the result,” says the Financial Times.

“The Russians did not create the things that divide us — we did that,” said Younger. “They are adept, albeit in a rather crass manner, at exacerbating those things and I believe that we should prevent that.”

The U.S. and UK are pivoting their attention from a Cold War focus on Russia and terrorism to a focus on Asia and China in particular.

“Trump’s strategists correctly identified China as the No. 1 threat to the nation’s security and started to shift the primary focus of the armed forces and the intelligence community away from counterinsurgency and terrorism back toward the more strenuous demands of great-power competition,” noted Foreign Policy this week.  “The next administration needs to double down on this effort, funding it properly despite post-pandemic budget constraints.”  

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