Richard P Moore/MI6
© Wikipedia/Reuters/Hannah McKayRichard Peter Moore โ€ข The MI6 Vauxhall Cross building in London, Britain
The head of Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service has said that Russia is getting weaker and weaker as a country, while simultaneously warning that it poses a significant military threat to the UK's allies in Eastern Europe.

Richard Moore, the chief of London's top spy agency, world famous as the fictional home of James Bond, told an interview with the Sunday Times that "Russia is an objectively declining power economically and demographically."

According to him, the world's largest country is "an extremely challenged place," arguing that recent protests in support of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny "show that there is a deal of disaffection with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin." Rallies held last week drew smaller crowds than organizers had anticipated, and were largely peaceful.

At the same time, Moore, whose enigmatic codename is simply 'C', warned that there had been a real prospect of Moscow ordering a "reckless" invasion of Ukraine, beginning a pattern of events that could have led to outright conflict with NATO and the West. Tens of thousands of Russian troops had been deployed to the border in what Kiev warned could be a precursor to a full-scale offensive.

Last week, Moscow announced that the units would begin to redeploy away from the border to their usual bases, having completed a series of drills designed to test their readiness. The spymaster, however, argued that the UK and US had played a role in the decision.
"The Russians are in absolutely no doubt of where the UK stands on this issue. And they are in absolutely no doubt of where the [American] administration stands on this issue, because channels are open."
This month, Britain ordered two Royal Navy warships into the Black Sea, off the coast of both Russia and Ukraine, in what was widely seen as a show of support for Kiev. A similar mooted move by the US was reportedly dropped, according to Turkish diplomats.

The standoff comes amid tense fighting between Ukrainian government forces and soldiers loyal to two breakaway self-declared republics in the east of the country, which have looked to Moscow for support. The Kremlin has warned of a potential humanitarian crisis in the region, and said it would intervene if that were to become the case.

In March, though, a new UK defense review, ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, branded Russia the country's top security concern, while confirming new cash to help the UK outfox its purported main adversary. The idea that the country was a declining power didn't feature in the analysis. Instead, it argued that Moscow is "the most acute threat in the region" and pledged to "work with NATO... to ensure a united Western response, combining military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts."

The idea that Russia is both a backwards, globally irrelevant nation, and an imminent security threat with malevolent influence in everything from lost elections to cyberattacks, has been a regular part of coverage about the country, and has famously been branded as "Russophrenia."