Ukraine Breaking News: G7 Leaders Hold Emergency Meeting After Russian Attacks

A senior British intelligence official will warn in a speech on Tuesday that while Russia’s aggression has created an urgent threat, China’s growing use of technology to control dissent and its growing ability to attack satellite systems , controlling digital currencies and tracking people pose much deeper challenges for the West.

In an interview Monday before his speech, the official, Jeremy Fleming, who heads GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence-gathering and cyber agency made famous for its role in cracking Enigma codes in World War II, also said that he was skeptical about how far China would go to support Russia’s aggression.

“I don’t think this is a ‘limitless relationship,'” he said, using the term used by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China when they met at the Beijing Olympics earlier this year. , just before the invasion of Ukraine. In light of Russia’s dismal battlefield performance and brutality, he said, China “needs to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of continuing to strongly align with Russia.”

Mr. Fleming’s agency, formally called Government Communications Headquarters, the National Security Agency’s counterpart in the United States, plays an increasingly central role in monitoring Russian communications and preparing for the day when that China’s advances in quantum computing can defeat the types of encryption used. to protect government and corporate communications.

With three decades of experience in the British intelligence services, Fleming rarely speaks in public. But in recent months, several of Britain’s spy chiefs have deliberately taken on a carefully crafted public role in outlining future security threats.

Mr. Fleming has gone further, detailing the capabilities and rules surrounding Britain’s use of offensive cyber capabilities, which it employed in Syria against terrorist groups and reportedly against Russian forces in Ukraine, a topic which Mr. Fleming refused to discuss.

However, in the interview, he described Russia as “a disruptor” that was “unpredictable in its actions right now.” But he said the performance of Russia’s armed forces had revealed deep weaknesses, and excerpts from his forthcoming speech described Putin’s decision-making as “flawed”, his forces as “depleted” and his reliance on mobilizing 300,000 “conscripts”. inexperienced” as evidence of Putin’s “desperate situation”.

“The Russian population has also begun to understand that,” he argued. “They are seeing how badly Putin has misjudged the situation.”

He added: “They are fleeing the draft, knowing that their access to modern technologies and outside influences will be drastically restricted.”

But Mr. Fleming’s warning is yet another reminder of the speed at which Western allies have come to see themselves as in direct competition, and sometimes in conflict, with the world’s other two great nuclear superpowers. Of the two, he clearly sees Russia as the more manageable.

Until recent years, most European nations have remained silent in their public criticism of Beijing and its ambitions, because trade with China has become critical for growth, especially for Germany. Britain even allowed Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant that the United States fears could pose a security threat, to provide some 5G equipment to Britain’s communications network, under some strict conditions, until sanctions imposed on it. the company by the United States made it impossible.

Mr. Fleming’s warnings about the strategies behind China’s investment in new technologies and its effort to create “client economies and governments” sound a lot like speeches made by their American counterparts over the past five years or more. But he spoke just before the opening of a Communist Party congress due to start in Beijing on Sunday at which Xi Jinping is expected to be appointed to a third five-year term as the country’s top leader.

Mr. Fleming said that, in the case of China, this could be “the sliding door moment in history”, in which the United States and its allies will soon discover that they are too far behind in a number of critical technologies to maintain a military or technological advantage over Beijing.

He described China’s move to develop central bank digital currencies that could be used to track transactions as a change that could also “allow China to partially evade the kind of international sanctions that are currently applied to the Putin regime in Russia.” She said that was an example of how China was “learning the lessons” from the war in Ukraine, presumably to apply if it decided to move against Taiwan and provoke further efforts by the US and its allies to isolate it economically.

Mr. Fleming also described China’s moves to build “a powerful anti-satellite capability, with the doctrine of denying other nations access to space in the event of a conflict.” And he accused China of trying to alter international technology standards to make it easier to track people, as part of its effort to crack down on dissent, including speech from Chinese citizens living abroad.

But his biggest warning revolved around the reliance on Chinese companies that are closely tied to the state, or would have no choice but to hand over data on individuals at the request of Chinese authorities. Huawei’s experience, he said in the interview, “opened our eyes to the extent that even the largest companies in China are eventually involved with the Chinese state” and have no choice but to comply “because of the way the Communist Party The party works and the national security laws operate”.

In Huawei’s case, however, the United States and its European partners have yet to offer truly competitive alternatives for much of the company’s network equipment, officials in many countries say. “We have to be able to offer alternatives,” Fleming said. Asked if Europe and the United States had provided such alternatives in the years since the campaign against Huawei gained steam, he acknowledged: “No, we don’t.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced sweeping new limits on the sale of semiconductor technology to China, hoping to cripple Beijing’s access to critical technologies needed for supercomputers, advanced weapons and artificial intelligence applications.

It was a sign of how quickly the world’s two largest economies had clashed for technological advantage, with the United States seeking to establish a stranglehold on advanced computing and semiconductor technology that China sees as essential to its own ambitions.

But Fleming admitted that in the coming months he would focus, like American leaders, on the question of whether Russia might try to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine to make up for its failures on the battlefield.

“This is a worrying time,” he said. But he noted that Putin had been cautious and “has been careful not to escalate beyond Ukraine’s borders.”

“He’s been careful not to escalate in terms of the types of weapons they’re using,” he said.

He added: “We are in a situation where the risks of escalation are very real.” But if “Putin decided that he would use tactical nuclear weapons,” he said, it would be a “complete departure” from his past actions and from Russian military doctrine.

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