A former British ambassador to Russia has said that Christopher Steele, the former British spy at the centre of an explosive dossier about US president-elect Donald Trump, would not have “just made it up”.
Sir Andrew Wood said he knows Steele as a “very competent, professional operator”.
The former MI6 officer has reportedly gone into hiding after being identified as the author of the report claiming Moscow held incriminating material on Trump which it could use to blackmail him.
Steele, who runs the London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Service, is said to have originally compiled the report for political opponents of Trump in Washington.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Today’s progamme on Friday, Wood said: “I know him (Steele) as a very competent, professional operator who left the secret service and is now operating his own private company.”
When questioned as to what extent he believed Steele’s work, Wood said: “I do not think he would make things up.
“I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgement but that’s not the same thing at all.”
Wood was ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000.
He admitted that he spoke to Republican senator John McCain in November, alerting him to the existence of material that could compromise the president-elect. McCain then sourced a copy of the dossier through his own means.
The file was deemed of such importance that it has now been shared with President Barack Obama, senior members of Congress as well as Trump himself.
Wood said it was “not surprising” that Steele had now gone into hiding since the dossier became public.
When asked what Steele would be fearful of, Wood said: “If his sources have told him the truth and he’s conveyed the truth that in itself is rather dangerous knowledge.”
He added: “Russia would certainly like to know where he got his information from, assuming his information is basically true and he hasn’t just made it up, which I don’t believe for a moment, and they are accustomed to take action.”
When asked whether the incident had damaged Britain’s relationship with the US and Russia, Wood said: “I don’t think an effort to get at the truth can ever be damaging.
“It is much better to know things and to be open about them than to pretend they don’t exist.”
On Friday it was reported that Steele was hired by England’s 2018 World Cup bid team.
It is understood the former spy gathered information on Fifa and other countries bidding to host the tournament, mainly Russia, the BBC reports.
Steele is believed to have reported his findings to the Eurasian crime department of the FBI.
It was his work on corruption in football that lent “credence” to his Trump dossier, Reuters reports.
One former colleague, who used to work for the Foreign Office, also sprang to Steele’s defence - dismissing any suggestions the dossier was “fake news”.
The source, described in the Guardian as a long-term friend, said: “The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false – completely untrue.
“Chris is an experienced and highly-regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.
“If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering.
“Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”