The head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Alex Younger briefed the public about the challenges of so-called “fourth generation espionage”.
The UK’s top spy spent some of his time blaming Russia for trying to, as he put it, “subvert the UK way of life” by supposedly poisoning the Skripals and through other mischievous but ultimately never verified actions, though moving beyond the infowar aspect of his speech and into its actual professional substance, he nevertheless touched on some interesting themes. According to him, “fourth generation espionage” involves “deepening our partnerships to counter hybrid threats, mastering covert action in the data age, attaching a cost to malign activity by adversaries and innovating to ensure that technology works to our advantage.”
In other words, it’s all about applying what he calls the “Fusion Doctrine” for building the right domestic and international teams across skillsets in order to best leverage new technologies for accomplishing his agency’s eternal mission, which is “to understand the motivations, intentions and aspirations of people in other countries.”
While he remarked that the so-called “hybrid threats” associated with “fourth generation espionage” necessitate “being able to take steps to change [targets’] behavior”, this has actually been part and parcel of the intelligence profession since time immemorial, albeit nowadays facilitated by social media and other technological platforms that allow shadowy actors such as the UK’s own “77th Brigade” to carry out psychological, influence, and informational operations.
Younger warned that “bulk data combined with modern analytics” could be “a serious challenge” if used against his country, obviously alluding to Cambridge Analytica’s purported weaponization of these cutting-edge technological processes to supposedly “hack” elections, though neglecting to draw any attention to the fact that his intelligence agency and its allies could conceivably do the same in advance of their own interests, something that everyone who uses Western-based social media platforms is theoretically at risk of having happen to them.
What Younger is most concerned about, however, are what he describes as the “eroded boundaries” that characterize so-called “hybrid threats” lying between war and peace, which he fears could undermine NATO’s Article 5 obligation for all of the military alliance’s members to support one another during times of conflict. Considering Russia to be a country that “regards [itself] as being in a state of perpetual confrontation with [the West]”, Younger believes that unacceptably high costs must be imposed upon it every time it’s accused of some wrongdoing, forgetting that the exact same principle could more applicably be applied against the West by Russia for the same reasons. He claims that it’s the UK that will never respond in kind by destabilizing Russia like Moscow’s accused of doing to the UK, but in reality, it’s President Putin’s so-called “judo moves” which prove that it’s Russia who has mastered asymmetrical responses instead.
MI6 chief Alex Younger speaks at MI6’s Vauxhall Cross headquarters in central London
If read from a cynical standpoint by anyone who’s aware of the true nature of contemporary geopolitics, Younger’s speech is actually quite informative because it inadvertently reveals what the West itself is doing to Russia by means of projecting its own actions onto its opponent.
That in and of itself is actually the very essence of Hybrid War, which is commonly understood to largely include blatantly deceptive techniques such as the one that the UK’s top spy is unabashedly attempting to pull off. Accusing one’s adversaries of the exact same thing that you yourself are doing is a classic method of deflecting attention from one’s own actions by pretending that you’re being victimized by the selfsame, which therefore “justifies” escalating tensions by portraying all hostile acts as “proactive defensive responses to aggression”. Basically, the British spymaster just sloppily revealed his hand to Russia while attempting to implicate it for allegedly conducting “fourth generation espionage” against the UK.