Bright, British and with a natural air of secrecy: the UK is recruiting spies. It may seem like an extract from a John Le Carré novel, but in the wake of heightened international tensions UK spy agencies are recruiting fluent Russian speakers.
While the Cold War may
have ended over 20 years ago, and the hackneyed images of shady
alleyways and wide-brimmed hats long lost to the popular
imagination, British intelligence agencies are putting espionage
at the forefront of relations with Russia.
In a recruitment advert online, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have advertised
posts for applicants fluent in Russian to translate documents
“intercepted under warrant,” which will be used “to
make the right choices to help safeguard national security.”
The job, which will pay a salary of £30,000 a year, will cover
“terrorism,” “espionage” and “potential
threats” to Britain’s security, with the possibility of
The role will also involve liaising with teams of investigators
in London, operatives working overseas and influencing the
government’s policy on how to deal with Russian President
Vladimir Putin and alleged aggression from Moscow.
The extremely public job listing has prompted questions about the
effectiveness of current British espionage, with critics saying
agencies are not prepared for a resurgence of hostile relations
with the east.
Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia Studies Centre at The
Henry Jackson Society, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had
lost their focus on Russia after the end of the Cold War, saying
their “desperation” was evident.
“There is clearly a desperate need within the security
services and government as a whole for Russian-speaking
individuals,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
“There was a process that began in 1990 which involved
frittering away the capability to understand Russia due to an
increasing lack of Russian speakers. That’s continued unchecked
He further said that Russian “dark forces” had been
rampant in London, causing it to be a “hotbed of
activity,” saying intelligence agencies were due to step up
their level of Russian monitoring.
“Individuals that we traditionally think about as being spies
in the James Bond sense are actually relatively few and far
between,” Dr Foxall said.
“Instead what the Russians have are individuals in think
tanks, in banks or high up in particular organizations who are on
their pay role and placed to feedback information to the Kremlin.
It is a subcontracting of traditional spy activities to
individuals who the Russians can pick up, use and drop when
they’re not useful.”
Candidates for the jobs will have to undergo a lengthy
application process, involving language tests, screening
questions about their education and employment, assessment
centers and face-to-face interviews. The full process could take
Naturally, though, applicants should have the discretion not to
post about their application or appointment on social media.
“Discretion is vital,” the document reads. “You
should not discuss your application, other than with your partner
or a close family member, providing that they are British. You
should not post on social media sites about your
For candidates lucky enough to be selected by MI5, their offices
will be conveniently situated directly across the Thames from
RT’s London offices. So presumably, listening in to editorial
meetings won’t present too many problems for British security