The Guardian’s report yesterday that Boris Johnson now has ‘sound reasons’ to keep Huawei out of UK’s 5G network is a case study in Machiavellian maneuvering at its best.
To recap, in January the UK approved Huawei to have a role in the rollout of Britain’s 5G network – its security agencies gave the tick that all necessary cyber and national security safeguards were in place.
The Trump administration was apoplectic. It claimed the very existence of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance (comprising the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) was under threat due to the decision. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, thundered with oblique threats, even hinting that the US/UK alliance was at risk.
The Australian government was also annoyed that the UK intelligence assessment was at total odds with what Australia had been trumpeting. Despite the broad swingeing accusations that Australia was making, no evidence was ever presented and as former PM Turnbull’s memoir revealed there was no evidence, in fact there was no ‘smoking gun’ about Huawei at all.
The UK Government was unmoved – relying on the cool-headed facts-based vetting of their security agencies.
Then the US delivered its masterstroke. One of the reasons UK intelligence were reassured about Huawei was that it was using US semi-conductor technology. The Trump administration is now threatening to remove that re-assurance by considering a ban on US semi-conductor technology being used in Huawei 5G equipment.
The ploy is best summed up by Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, and as reported in The Guardian:
In an article for the FT, Sawers said the original decision to allow Huawei a partial role in building 5G was a “reasonable balance” but that was no longer the case because of the sanctions, which would stop the firm using technology reliant on American intellectual property.
Meanwhile, the US is scrambling to catch-up on 5G. It seems that ‘National Security’ is being used as a smokescreen for raw old school protectionism.