The 2016 Presidential Elections of the United States have long been in global media, in wake of the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in Donald Trump’s victory. Emerging into the politics of yet another country, Russia has also maintained a crooked presence in the United Kingdom.
While the Mueller investigation concluded after two years in March 2019, the UK has recently been swirling in a similar scenario. However, Moscow has been crawling into Britain’s political spectrum for couple of years.
A report published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee in February 2019 revealed that where Russia was making Trump win, it also tried to directly intervene in the 2016 EU referendum on Britain’s exit from the union, as well as in the 2017 general elections.
Another official UK parliamentary committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) recently compiled a report into Russian effort of influencing the British institution and successive UK governments, simply titled “Russia”. Members of committee were informed that Moscow had built up a friendly network of British diplomats, parliamentarians, lawyers and other influencers.
The Russian meddling attempts are being described as “potentially the most significant threat to the UK’s institutions and its ways of life.”
However, the final report remains unpublished. Currently in power, the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under extensive criticism from the Labour Party and members of the committee on November 4, for deliberately delaying the report’s release ahead of the general elections in December this year.
Chairman of ISC, Dominic Grieve accused Johnson of “sitting on the report” and claimed that the Downing Street presented “bogus” explanations for not publishing it. On the other hand, the opposition politicians accused the Conservatives of a cover-up, saying it would unveil the alleged Russian links of certain members of the Conservative Party, and could possibly inflame questions over the accuracy of the Brexit referendum in 2016.
The report by the ISC, which provides oversight of Britain’s intelligence and security agencies, is a product of extensive investigation, which has also taken evidence from members of the intelligence services. It was concluded in March and handed over to Downing Street for approval on October 17.
Russian Meddling: UK vs US
Both the UK and US witnessed an unwanted presence of Russia in the same year, 2016. However, from there, the relations of the two sides turned out completely different after all these years. In the United States, Russia targeted the voters during 2016 Presidential Elections to manipulate the political perspective of the voters, especially towards the then-candidate Donald Trump.
Evidences and reports in the past revealed that Moscow had access to a Cambridge Analytica database, which breached the laws and hacked data of 50-170 million Facebook users. This data was used by Russia to target the US elections and Brexit referendum in the UK.
The Russian presence in the US ended with Trump’s victory, but it continued to creep in the political roots of the UK. The British Conservative Party’s pro-Brexit ideology aligned just perfectly with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-EU agenda, prompting well-established links that are still wrecking Britain’s political establishment.
Several Russian Ambassadors and diplomats, including Sergei Nalobin, Alexander Udod and Alexander Yakovenko, entered the UK and built ties with the Conservatives and several other politicians like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.
The covert relations between the two nations trembled after the 2018 Novichok nerve agent attack, in attempt to assassinate a former Russian military officer and UK’s intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and her daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. The UK government held Russia responsible for the attack, stating that it’s “highly likely” that the country received backing of the EU, US and allies within Britain.
Despite that, Russia still has a strong hold in the UK because of the Conservative Party and pro-Brexit politicians, where the upcoming general elections remain under a meddling threat. On top of it, the ISC report, which could have influenced voter’s choice at the polls, also remains in the cupboards of the Downing Street.
While the Russian meddling in the US happened at the hands of a businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump, it was because of the extended friendly network with the Conservatives in Britain. The world still sees it as a one-time blunder in Washington’s political panorama, but it has been establishing a protracted presence on UK’s land.