21st Feb 2024

UK spy chief: Taiwan's future at stake in Ukraine war

  • Russian aggression in Ukraine caused 'tectonic' shifts in Western alliance, Richard Moore said (Photo: Rodrigo Abd)
Listen to article

The West must help Ukraine to defeat Russia in order to deter China from invading Taiwan, Britain's intelligence chief has said.

Chinese president Xi Jinping was watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine "like a hawk", Richard Moore, the head of Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service, said on Thursday (21 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Richard Moore became MI6 chief in July 2020 (Photo:

And that was "one reason why it's so essential we tough it out going into this winter and we continue to help Ukraine to win, or at least negotiate from a position of significant strength," Moore said.

Xi had an "ingrained narrative of Western weakness", Moore added.

"I think he [Xi] misunderstands US resolve and power and that could lead him to miscalculate over Taiwan", Moore said.

"It's really important [for Ukraine to win] as president Xi looks at what he may or may not do with Taiwan and sees what can happen with a misjudged invasion," the MI6 chief said.

Moore, a former diplomat who took up his MI6 post two years ago, spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in his first-ever public remarks abroad.

Winter would be tough, because European countries would come under "pressure" to abandon Ukraine due to Russian gas cut-offs, he said.

But Russian president Vladimir Putin's offensive in east Ukraine was slowing to "incremental progress" and his forces would soon have to pause to regroup, giving Ukraine a chance to strike back, Moore said.

"It [a Ukrainian counter-offensive] would be an important reminder to the rest of Europe that it's a winnable war," he said.

Russia had already lost 15,000 soldiers — more than in Afghanistan in Soviet times, he noted, and Putin got a "bloody nose" trying to capture Kyiv.

His Ukraine war was also a "strategic failure" in terms of broader Russian foreign policy, Moore said.

It had prompted "tectonic shifts" in the Western military allegiance, such as Germany agreeing to export arms and Finland and Sweden joining Nato, he said.

"Sweden just gave up 200 years of neutrality," he added.

Europe had also ejected "roughly half" of all Russian spies working under diplomatic cover in its capitals, Moore noted, referring to the 530 recent expulsions by EU and allied states since April.

"We in the UK estimate that reduced their ability to spy in Europe by half," he said.

Russian "illegals" — spies under non-diplomatic cover — were also being exposed as in recent cases in Spain and the Netherlands, he also said.

One reason why Putin charged into Ukraine was because his own intelligence chiefs were too scared to tell him what he would really face there, Moore said.

It "doesn't pay to speak truth to power" in the Kremlin and Putin "just wasn't being briefed up", Moore said.

But Putin also thought he still had friends on the world stage — including China and Iran.

China has been helping Russia by buying its oil and spreading its war propaganda, Moore said.

"They've [the Chinese] been quite conservative about military assistance [to Russia] but I'm sure if they could provide that and get away with it, they would," he added.

The West ought to "listen hard" when Xi says his partnership with Putin has "no limits", as he did before the Ukraine invasion, Moore said.

But "this is not an equal partnership and Ukraine has made it less equal," he added. "China is very much in the driving seat and Russia is the junior partner," he said.

The West might not share the same values as Gulf Arab states, but it should still "work our friends in the Gulf" to help weaken Iran, Moore added.

Hungary seeks to buy more gas from Russia

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán is facing one of his biggest challenges of his more than a decade-long rule, as the economic pressures keep mounting, and EU funds remain suspended due to rule-of-law concerns.


Russia's 'Night Wolves' biker gang to face EU ban

Pro-Kremlin biker gang the Night Wolves will no longer be able to ride around Europe under new Russia sanctions, which also strike at Sberbank and the mayor of Moscow.


For China and EU, cooperation is our only right way forward

In a world of profound changes, we believe that healthy and stable China-EU relations, especially in the economic and trade realm, can help counter the uncertainty on the global economic stage, and are conducive to global development and prosperity.


Supporting Taiwan 'like carrying water in a sieve'

China's ambassador to Belgium, Cao Zhongming, says the US has been distorting, obscuring and hollowing out the 'one-China' principle and unscrupulously undermining China's core interests. This is sheer double standards and a shameful act of bad faith.


EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack

The EU-Israel association trade agreement enabled €46.8bn of trade last year. Exports rose for both parties by around 20 percent in 2022. As the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: "Yes, we have the capacity to influence [Israel]."

Latest News

  1. African leaders unveil continent-wide plan to buy medicines
  2. EU urban-rural divide not bridged by cohesion policy, report finds
  3. Impending Rafah disaster shows up politics of humanitarian aid
  4. Sweden heading into Nato, after Orbán-Kristersson deal
  5. EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack
  6. 'Nightmare' 2024 sees Orbán struggle ahead of EU elections
  7. 'Crying wolf' win for chemicals lobby at Antwerp EU meeting
  8. Hungary blocks EU appeal for Israel not to strike Rafah

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us