The U.K. is “prepared and able” to retaliate against Russia’s cyberattacks “should we so desire,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Thursday night, local media reported.
Johnson, who made the comments to journalists as he traveled to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, said Britain “cannot accept” the Kremlin’s “destabilizing” cyberattacks.
“I can assure you the U.K. is a world leader in this field,” Johnson said. “We do not conduct malign or disruptive cyber activity but … the logic of deterrence is clearly something we now appreciate in the cyber field and that is something we have acquired.”
Johnson said relations with Russia “haven’t been so bad for a very long time,” with the country acting “in direct opposition to the West” and “more hostile” towards British interests than ever since the Cold War.
“Relations with Russia cannot be business as usual whilst Russia continues to attempt to destabilize European states,” Johnson said.
The comments came ahead of a meeting with Lavrov on Friday, on the first visit to Russia by a British foreign secretary in five years. Johnson will complain during the meeting about Russian-backed hackers’ attacks on critical U.K. infrastructure and attempts to spread fake news and influence elections, according to the Daily Mail.
The foreign secretary will also highlight the U.K.’s improving cyber offences, after parliament’s intelligence and security committee published a report earlier this week that revealed Britain had developed tools to attack other countries’ communications, weapons systems and infrastructure.