Britain says Russia is trying to undermine West by 'weaponizing misinformation'

LONDON (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine the West by spreading lies and attacking critical infrastructure with hackers, Britain's defense minister said.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Thursday night that Kremlin chief Putin had chosen to become a strategic competitor of the West since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Fallon said the NATO military alliance should stand firm to deter Russia.

"We see a country that in weaponizing misinformation has created what we might now see as the post-truth age," Fallon said. "Russia is clearly testing NATO and the West. It is seeking to expand its sphere of influence, destabilize countries and weaken the alliance."

"Part of our response is for NATO and the West to do more to tackle the false reality promoted through Soviet-style misinformation," he said. "Whatever else we do on deterrence and dialogue we must counter Putin’s Pravda with a faster truth."

The CIA has said that Russia intervened in the U.S. 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House.

But in a speech peppered with Russian words, Fallon also urged cooperation with Moscow and quoted Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov to express hope that the relationship with Moscow could be improved.

"We hope that Russia changes tack," Fallon said.

"Russia could again become the partner the West always wished for. We could dare to hope that, to quote Bulgakov again, 'everything will turn out right, the world is built like that'," he said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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