Alex Younger used the description of the cynicism and savagery of war by the Roman historian Tacitus to describe the campaign of Russia and the Assad regime in Syria – “they make a desert, then call it peace”. He wanted to stress the appalling suffering of civilians from relentless bombing. “The human tragedy is heartbreaking,” he said.
There is also a security price to pay for this, Mr Younger said in his first public speech since becoming head of MI6. The anger sparked by such punitive military action would create a recruiting pool of jihadis to target the international community, including Britain. Russia, which has experienced its own share of terrorism, would not be immune.