Head Of MI6 Warns Russia: 'Don't Underestimate Our Capabilities'

Alex Younger has warned Russia and other rogue states not to underestimate the UK...

Alex Younger studied economics at the University of St Andrews before serving as an officer in the British Army and joining MI6​​​​​​ (Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

The head of MI6 has warned Russia and other rogue states not to underestimate the UK's capabilities.

Alex Younger set out how the intelligence agency, known formally as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), are developing a "fourth generation of espionage" as adversaries take advantage of the "blurred lines" between the cyber and physical worlds.

Speaking to students at the University of St Andrews, this was only his second public speech since becoming "C" four years ago.

During the event, he singled out Russia and the "flagrant hostile act" of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Army personnel Salisbury
Army personnel during a decontamination operation in Salisbury in April.

Mr Younger described how MI6 helped expose the perpetrators said to be behind the attack and helped coordinate the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

"We exposed the perpetrators and co-ordinated the largest-ever collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers from NATO and partner states, significantly degrading Russian intelligence capability.

"When faced by these kinds of attacks, our approach with our allies is to seek to attach a cost to the behaviour.

"Our intention is for the Russian state to conclude that, whatever benefits it thinks it is accruing from this activity, they are not worth the risk.

"We will do this in our own way, according to our laws, and our values. We will be successful nonetheless, and I urge Russia or any other state intent on subverting our way of life not to underestimate our determination and our capabilities, or those of our allies. We can do this to any opponent at any time."

Mr Younger also said the UK draws on unparalleled partnerships overseas, including its Five Eyes allies the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and its "close and historic security" relationships across Europe.

Islamic State
Still image taken from an ISIS propaganda video.

He highlighted how working with other intelligence services had disrupted "multiple" planned attacks by Isis overseas, though said he would not hide the fact some MI6 agents "have paid the ultimate price".

"Our country and our allies owe them a debt they can never truly know and never fully repay."

Mr Younger also told students the UK is "well equipped" to counter those who launch attacks on Britain in ways that fall short of traditional warfare, such as cyber attacks and the spreading of disinformation.

He said: "The era of the fourth industrial revolution calls for a fourth generation espionage: fusing our traditional human skills with accelerated innovation, new partnerships and a mindset that mobilises diversity and empowers the young."