Russia will envy Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, says Fallon

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The Defence Secretary has taunted the Kremlin over fears it will attempt to spy on HMS Queen Elizabeth during its sea trials, saying Russia will envy Britain’s new flagship.

Sir Michael Fallon contrasted the Royal Navy’s new 65,000 ton carrier with what he called the “dilapidated” Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which sailed through the Channel late last year.

Writing in the Telegraph, he also says Britain must learn from the resolve of Margaret Thatcher in dealing with modern threats such as terrorism and Moscow’s aggression in Eastern Europe.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first QE Class aircraft carrier, sets sail from Rosyth to commence first stage sea trials off the north-east of Scotland

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first QE Class aircraft carrier, sets sail from Rosyth to commence first stage sea trials off the north-east of Scotland Credit:  John Linton/BAE Systems/PA

Royal Navy commanders have said they expect Russian vessels and aircraft to spy on the Navy’s new aircraft carrier as it undergoes sea trials in the North Sea.

Sir Michael said: “It’s really routine for the Russians to collect intelligence on our ships. We will take every precaution to make sure that they don’t get too close, but I think they will be admiring her.”

He said the Royal Navy had “ways and means” of making protecting the warship from Russian intelligence gathering.

He went on: “When you saw that old, dilapidated Kuznetsov sailing through the Channel, a few months ago, I think the Russians will look at this ship with a little bit of envy.”

Russian warships escorted towards English ChannelRussian warships escorted towards English Channel 00:32

The Soviet-era Kuznetsov sailed westwards through the Channel in October with a detachment of aircraft to join the Russian air campaign against rebels in Aleppo.

The 55,000 ton Kutnetsov has been plagued by years of technical problems and is accompanied everywhere by a tug in case it breaks down.

Royal Navy commanders have said they will deploy a frigate or destroyer as escort and use shore-based helicopters to look for Russian submarines spying on the vessel.

Writing separately in the Telegraph ahead of the Centre for Policy Studies’ Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security, Sir Michael says Britain is now in “an age of competition and confrontation when we face multiple and simultaneous threats”.

He says recent months have shown the threat from terrorism and cyber attack, as well as “the resurgence of Russian aggression abroad…undermining democracy wherever it can”.

But rather than accepting decline, he writes the West “must follow the Iron Lady’s lead by acting decisively and with confidence to defend our country and all that it represents”.

He writes: “First, we should once more speak up for our great values and make the case for the West. Ours is the great story of democracy, freedom under the law, and free trade that banished the oppressive nightmare for millions behind the iron curtain and gave millions more in the developing world hope of a better life.

“We are attacked not because we’ve failed, but because of the success of our values and beliefs that have spread across the globe and taken root far beyond the Berlin Wall.

“We shouldn’t downplay what we can offer. Like Mrs Thatcher, we too are engaged in a battle of ideas. It’s a battle we must win – making it clear, in word and deed, that our values are not tradable.”