Government should adopt “hard-headed” approach to engagement with Russia

July 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

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A committee of MPs has concluded that while cooperation with Russia is “desirable”, it should not come at the price of accepting the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence.

The Defence Committee condemned Russia’s invasion of Georgia and warned that to allow undue Russian influence in these countries would risk increasing Russian assertiveness and possibly compromise the sovereignty of these states.

“This would be against the UK’s national interests, as European security is enhanced by having stable democratic and independent states across Europe,” the committee said.

“The Government should adopt a hard-headed approach to engagement with Russia, based on the reality of Russia’s foreign policy rather than abstract and misleading notions of shared values.

“The military actions by Russia and Georgia were unacceptable.

“While Georgia acted recklessly in August 2008, Russia responded with disproportionate and illegal force by encroaching deep into Georgian territory.

“The Government should send a strong message to Russia that it needs to withdraw its military forces from Georgian territory to its pre-conflict positions.”

Russia’s use of energy as a foreign policy tool is “of concern” to the committee.

“Many EU countries are heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil, which makes them vulnerable to the threat of cut offs: and this dependency may increase. This is why it is vital that the EU adopts a united approach to energy and diversifies its supply.

“Although Russia does not pose a military threat to NATO as an Alliance, some Central and Eastern European NATO Member States are understandably concerned about the military threat that Russia poses to them individually, given Russia’s actions in Georgia. It is important they are reassured.

“It is in NATO’s interests to continue to support the territorial integrity of Georgia.

“If Russia believes it has carte blanche to disregard international law there is an increased risk of other countries suffering the same fate as Georgia.

“The credibility of NATO as a military alliance is based on its ability to provide mutual defence to its Member States, as outlined in Article 5.

“NATO’s new Strategic Concept should contain a renewed commitment to Article 5 as well as ensuring that NATO is militarily capable of acting inside and outside of NATO boundaries.

“NATO is strongest when its Member States are united; the UK Government should work within NATO to ensure that this is achieved.

“It is right that NATO, the EU and the UK Government engage with Russia both on areas of cooperation and areas of disagreement.

“Russia has much to gain from positioning itself firmly within the community of nations.

“Engagement is important to build trust and avoid a new confrontation arising between Russia and the West.”

James Arbuthnot, chairman of the Defence Committee, said:

“I am dismayed that the mandates for the UN and OSCE monitoring missions in Georgia have not been extended.

“The international community, including the remaining EU monitoring mission in Georgia, has an important role in mitigating the risk of further conflict in the region.

“The Government should send a strong message to Russia that it needs to withdraw its military forces from Georgian territory to its pre-conflict positions.”

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