London has said there is no evidence that a foreign state was behind the recent leaks from its embassy in Washington, but this hasn’t stopped British officials from quietly feeding tabloid narratives blaming Russia for the affair.
The UK government is in full damage-control mode after a series of memos penned by the UK ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, were leaked to the press. The diplomatic cables described US President Donald Trump as “incompetent.”
While British officials appear to believe that the embarrassing leaks were carried out by an “unpatriotic” insider, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt didn’t seem to mind playing along with tabloid speculation that Russia is somehow at fault.
Pressed by the Sun about whether he believed “hostile states such as Russia” may be behind the leaks, Hunt was all too happy to quietly fan the flames – even while acknowledging that there was no reason to suspect that Russia or any other country played a part in the incident.
“Of course it would be massively concerning if it was the act of a foreign, hostile state,” he said, adding that investigators would “follow all avenues of inquiry to try to understand how this happened. That’s something that will be considered.”
Despite his apparent hand-wringing, Hunt conceded that he’s “seen no evidence” to suggest that any foreign country was involved in the affair.
The Daily Mail was a bit more creative with its Russia-baiting. In a write-up of Hunt’s comments to the Sun, the British tabloid claimed that it had spoken with a “government source” who “thought [the leak] looked like something ‘out of Russia’s playbook.’”
Russia has become the West’s go-to scapegoat, with media outlets accusing Moscow of a litany of devious misdeeds, from hacking elections to training Beluga whales to spy on Scandinavia.
The threat posed by Russia may be a tad overstated, however. An alert system created by the EU to detect “Russian meddling,” for example, has yet to sound an alarm in the six months of its existence.