The head of MI6 will warn Russia and other rogue states “not to underestimate” the UK’s “determination and capabilities”, as he calls for a new era of spying amid emerging threats.

Speaking to students at the University of St Andrews, Alex Younger will warn of threats from enemies who regard themselves as being in a state of “perpetual confrontation” with the UK and describe how intelligence agencies are developing a “fourth generation” of espionage.

In his second major speech since becoming head of the Secret Intelligence Service four years ago, Mr Younger will urge “Russia or any other state intent on subverting our way of life not to underestimate our determination and our capabilities, or those of our allies”.

MI6 headquarters
Image: The MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall, London

He will describe how MI6 helped expose the perpetrators said to be behind the Salisbury nerve agent attack and how it helped co-ordinate the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

He will also tell students that Britain is “well-equipped” to counter those who launch attacks on Britain in ways that fall short of traditional warfare, such as cyber attacks and the spreading of disinformation.

He will say: “The era of the fourth industrial revolution calls for a fourth generation of espionage: fusing our traditional human skills with accelerated innovation, new partnerships and a mindset that mobilises diversity and empowers the young.”

He will also focus on the strengthening of security ties in Europe ahead of Brexit and will highlight how working with other intelligence services had disrupted “multiple” planned attacks by Islamic State overseas.

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And in a direct appeal to students, Mr Younger will call for the need for diversity in MI6.

“I want to speak to young people who have never seen themselves in MI6,” he will say. “It doesn’t matter where you are from. If you want to make a difference and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step forward.”

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