West to Russia’s Putin: ‘We Know What You Are Doing and You Will Not Succeed’

The U.S. isn’t the only Western country that has grown increasingly angry at Russia’s social media disinformation wars.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Kremlin “is seeking to weaponize information, deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake news stories and Photoshopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”

May had a “simple” message for Russia. “We know what you are doing, and you will not succeed,” she said Monday during a major foreign policy address at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London.

Russia has made headlines in the U.S. as reports surfaced that Kremlin-backed bots spread false information favoring presidential candidate Donald Trump and damaging his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department is investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russians.

Russian bots have also long dominated Twitter chatter about British and other NATO forces in Eastern Europe. In Britain, a pro-Brexit Twitter account with 100,000 followers was found over the summer to be possibly part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied Kremlin involvement in any Western country’s politics.

May said that the U.K. “will do what is necessary to protect ourselves and work with our allies to do likewise.”

She added, “That is why we are driving reform of NATO, so this vital alliance is better able to deter and counter hostile Russian activity.” 

The prime minister added that Britain is strengthening its cybersecurity and exploring new ways to tighten its financial infrastructure to make sure that “the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the U.K.”

Despite her fierce rhetoric, May said she seeks a better relationship with Putin, and she is pursuing that by sending Britain’s foreign secretary to Moscow in the coming months.

“We know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the world,” May said. “But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend.”

Counterintelligence officials, legislators and researchers across Europe have dedicated years to finding ways to counter Russian hacking, trolling and disinformation. European experts have said the best way to combat Russian influence is to bring it to light.

“We have to prepare the public,” intelligence expert Patrick Sensburg, a member of Germany’s parliament, told The Washington Post.