Britain has lost self-confidence without the “essential threat” of the Cold War, a former head of MI6 has said.
Sir Richard Dearlove said Britain no longer had the “cohesion and motivation” that drove the former spy when he joined the service in 1966.
He told the National Conservatism conference in Westminster: “It never occurred to me that I was not on the side of the angels.”
Sir Richard, who led MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said: “Looking back, we were self-confident without any hint of complacency. We took for granted the fundamental moral difference between the values we espoused and the totalitarian nature of Soviet Russia and Maoist China.”
Comparing his experience to the modern world, he said: “It seems to me we have since lost our way.
“Without the essential threat to our way of life that was a constant feature of the Cold War, we have lost cohesion and motivation, and especially our self-confidence.
“Minority views amplified by social media have been allowed disproportionate political and social space so that the mainline political and social debate has become seriously distorted by fringe movements.”
Michael Anton, a former US national security official under Donald Trump, claimed the American armed forces were struggling with recruitment because too many Americans had been taught that “their country is evil and they should hate it”.
Discussing “active measures” – disinformation and subversion efforts usually associated with Communist nations – Sir Richard warned: “Active measures work best in a fertile social and political environment where naivety about Russian and Chinese intentions is rife, where doubt about our own values system and its foundations has irrational strength.
“I’m worried when I witness eminent members of our own elite doing the work of our foremost enemies for them.
“Whether it is advocating for Huawei, refusing to publish any serious scientific study that questions the Chinese narrative on the origins of the Sars-Cov 2 virus, or promoting a settlement in the war between Russia and Ukraine that ignores the peace conditions laid down by President Zelensky.”
Sir Richard also argued that only a revolution could end the threat from Russia, saying: “The sheer brutality of Putin’s regime leads me towards the conclusion that Russia’s political DNA is so corrupted that only another revolutionary change might rebalance it.”