Getting the Russian relationship right

This week Mr Trump meets Mr Putin. I want the President to be realistic about Russian behaviour and how we need to respond. It would be good if  relations improve rather than a further deterioration with threats on both sides, without compromising important principles. Mr Trump may well wish to announce  new practical working approaches despite the differences.

The current UK government has been at the tough end of western attitudes towards Russia, in part owing to the poisonings in Salisbury. Of course killing people with nerve agents must be condemned strongly and my heart goes out to the families affected. Our relationship with Russia is, however, a complex one. The government and NATO  work in  close contact with the Russian authorities when acting militarily against Isis.  That makes sense, but reminds us how there are few absolutes in relations between important countries.  Germany, part of NATO, has made herself very dependent on Russian gas, as Mr Trump pointed out. Events and circumstances can change, and diplomacy needs to respond. A country has a range of interests. These can require agreements with countries that have very different values and behaviours and may need to reshape old alliances. We do have friendly working relations with a number of countries with whom we have profound disagreements on human rights and government behaviours.

Russia is a dominant power in the Middle East. President Obama’s decision to limit US force in the region and to stay out of much of the Syrian war has ensured growing Russian influence. President Trump has not changed this policy, though he has taken specific action over chemical weapons use. Given this development the USA, UK and other NATO allies co-operate closely with the Russian military where Russia does hold sway. and need to do so to avoid inadvertent clashes.

Russia upset the EU through its actions in Crimea. This led to sanctions and tough words. The western allies however are not going to try to prize Crimea apart from Russia by force, so at some stage there needs to be discussions about how to proceed despite  this dispute. Russia would say the bulk of the people of Crimea want to be Russian, so under the doctrine of self determination it makes sense. The West says there was no internationally approved referendum to test opinion and make this decision. The EU needs to watch to see what if anything the President says on this matter, as we need to avoid a major split on the subject between the USA and the European NATO members.

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48 Comments

  1. Peter
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    “Russia upset the EU through its actions in Crimea. ”

    Similarly The West upset Russia regarding actions around South Ossetia and the Ukraine.

    Trump may want better relations with Russia but you are never absolutely sure with Trump. He may change his mind.

    • NickC
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Instead of being blinkered by the theory of UK “soft power” our establishment needs to understand that nations do not have friends they have interests. There are gradations of course. A-NZ are our friends more than the USA, the USA more than Germany/France/Russia.

      Russia’s Vladimir Putin is, baldly, a KGB style thug who has substituted nationalism for the failure of socialism. Putin is far from the only one around the world though, and realistically we have to deal with them all. Preferably peacefully.

    • Hope
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      JR, you have the fundamentals wrong. May has not rebuked Germany for its dependency on Russian gas, 50-70 percent while pretending EU solidarity over sanctions! EU trying to march East and overthrow an elected president in the Ukraine for its own purposes. Why would Putin not feel threatened, Kennedy did over Cuba? Against the West pledge not to land grab after the wall went down. EU getting former USSR states to join EU to be covered by NATO, land grab! EU gradually building up to its own army to replace its involvement in NATO. EU getting protection on the cheap while it land grabs and until EU army is up and running.

      Putin has sorted out Syria far better than when Cameron and Hague wanted to get the U.K. involved not knowing what side to support! Again, UK wanted regime change disguised as helping the rebels. If the West had not intervened the rebellion would not have got off the ground. This mess was helped, supported by the West to overthrow Bashad, none of our business. Using propaganda to make us feel sy pathty to get involved. 800 Syrian refugees turned out to be 8 Syrians only, per JRM on TV.

      May will not be trust on any issue. She is completely TOXIC. Underhand, no integrity and completely untrustworthy. Your party needs to realise ASAP the public is repulsed by her presence. Change her to give the next leader a chance at the next election.

    • TROD
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      “Russia upset the EU through its actions in Crimea.”

      Similarly the West also upset Russia regarding actions surrounding the former Yugoslavia.

  2. jerry
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    “Russia is a dominant power in the Middle East.”

    Oh right, is you say so…

    • Mitchel
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Russia IS a dominant power in the Middle East(possibly the dominant power)-it is the only power that either gets on well or has at least a functioning,working relationship with all the state actors in the region.It’s military presence in Syria(possibly the most strategically important part of that region),it’s UN Security Council veto and it’s adept management of energy politics have cemented that.

      M Macron has seen which way the winds are blowing with his St Petersburg speech a few weeks ago:

      “I respect the enhanced role which Russia assumes in it’s regional environment and the world,in particular the Middle East,which entails heightened responsiblity.I hope Russia understands that France is it’s credible European partner now and in the future”

      With Donald proving an unreliable boyfriend,he’s turned to “cher Vladimir”!

      • jerry
        Posted July 17, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        @Mitchel; “Russia IS a dominant power in the Middle East(possibly the dominant power)”

        Nonsense, the Middle-East is more than just Syria & Iran, the west has far more influence in the area than Russia does.

        • Mitchel
          Posted July 17, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          Yes it’s also Lebanon and Iraq – aligned with Iran and therefore Russia.You have the Saudis (who influence the West rather than vice-versa) kow-towing to Moscow;the Qataris who want Russia’s support in their troiubles with the Saudis.etc.

          • jerry
            Posted July 20, 2018 at 8:19 am | Permalink

            @Mitchel; Nonsense, most of the major players you cite buy western arms, never mind hosting western military bases!

            Also far to many get bogged down in who supports who in the Israel – Palestinian issue, for example Qatar might well have differing opinions to others in the region but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are aligned differently on the much wider international stage.

  3. Oliver
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    May’s sole credible mandate rest on her managing to win the popular vote, with a margin of 758,224 votes over Corbyn.

    If she loses a mere 2.8% of those who voted for her, that mandate is gone.

    She’s lost mine

    (Lifelong conservative, PPE graduate, who certainly voted with his head, and doesn’t care for being patronised by a geography graduate).

    • Richard1
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      There is no sensible alternative to voting Conservative for anyone who has any desire to see free market policies. Except if you want rejection of Brexit and eurodeferalism, then LibDem is the rational choice.

      • libertarian
        Posted July 16, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Richard1

        I’m afraid the Conservative party gave up free market policies 20 years ago . They have been a Lib Dem party since then. Regulation, tax, EU, attacking small business, heaping employment costs on employment costs, they really have been atrocious . We dont have a free market based party at all.

        Quite frankly it doesn’t matter who you vote for , you’re going to be given what the EU/Civil Service want you to have

      • Anonymous
        Posted July 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Yet again “We ask you to hold your noses and vote Tory to keep the opposition out.”

        How many times do we have to do this ???

        No. Never again.

      • Bob
        Posted July 16, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        @Richard1
        Until people shake off this attitude we will be condemned to the stagnant two party state in perpetuity. Let’s break up the cosy LibLabCon consensus and get some real plurality into Parliament

  4. DUNCAN
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    There’s only one concern we have in the UK and it’s your leader. Putin and Trump are of little significance for those of us who are tired of this perfidious Europhile interventionist you elected to lead our party

    What Trump does or doesn’t do is immaterial. What Putin does or doesn’t do is immaterial. We only know one thing. We want May deposed

    Trump fights for his nation. Putin fights for his nation. May betrays her nation. How fortunate we are to have such a leader like the one you elected

    It makes you proud to be British to be led by a government and a Parliament who concern themselves with destroying democracy and protecting their careers

  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Our satellite technology and crewing of the ISS is reliant on Soyuz rocketry.

  6. Mark B
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    Our approach to Russia has been nothing short of aggressive. We, through the EU and with American help, engineered a coup in Ukraine and then further aggregated the situation by getting them to sign an agreement committing the Ukranian government to deeper military involvement and possible EU and NATO membership. All this Russia would never accept. There has also been a very aggressive policy against Russian allies. Libya, Syria and others. All to weaken and isolate her.

    Russia has vast wealth which some in the West want to control. Under President Putin this has become impossible to achieve, therefore, for some, they are forced due to silly policies to throw themselves at Russia’s mercy.

    I can only guess why Russia and the UK are at loggerheads, and I think it is more to do with minority interest groups than anything serious than alleged poisonings.

  7. Dennis Perrin
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    The EU upset Russia with its toppling of the then legitimate Ukraine government. Crimea was always Russian. Crimea had no invasion by Russia since the Crimeans are composed of a majority of Russian nationals and (like the Northern Irish are mostly sympathetic to the UK), Crimeans are mostly sympathetic to Russia. Russia is not a threat neither is it an enemy, even though the US and UK desperately need enemies.

    Germany’s reliance on Russian gas is not a bad thing just because Trump says so. Trust needs building up and more trade helps better relations.

  8. Javelin
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    In all of Trump’s election speeches he said he wanted to get along with Russia.

    Bannon has also influenced Trump that the next international fault lines will be between christians and other religions, and cooperating with Russia is an essential part of that strategy.

    Obama simply wasn’t a good leader in the ME. The red lines that never happened were premised on assurances from Saudi that their oil funded Sunni brigades would win, which in turn was based on an assumption that Russia would fight with politically correct gloves on. One thermobaric bomb later and the Sunni fighters folded.

    Trump’s ME strategy is to let Russia take turns on the basis that the US and Russia will link up later. Trump sees NATO as redundant and will be forming a new Christian alliance in the next few years.

    • Mitchel
      Posted July 17, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      An interesting adjunct to that is that representatives of 30 of South Africa’s leading Afrikaaner farming families visited the Stavropol region of Russia a couple of weeks ago with a view to establishing a migration channel (the numbers involved could be c15,000) and using their skills on some of Russia’s 43 million hectares of fertile agricultural land which is currently unutilised-having established itself as an energy superpower,Russia’s next objective is to become a food-producing superpower.

      Catherine the Great did a similar thing in the late 18th century with the establishment of the Volga German colony and the introduction of other European farmers to the Ukraine after she had crushed the Crimean Tartars and eliminated their slave-raiding menace.

      etc ed

  9. agricola
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    You do not mention Turkey, one time potential member of the EU. Member of NATO but in conflict with those like the Kurds who we might naturally support in their bid for national autonomy.

    Russia respects strength, hence the need for the EU to shape up financially within NATO. Not that I expect them to. The EU seems more interested in façade than anything real. Has nothing been learnt from the 1930s when much of Europe looked good on paper but was found totally wanting in a matter of days.

    Please let us know what the timing is for the speech’s of Boris and David Davis in the HoC. I look forward to Mrs May’s dishonest approach to Brexit thoroughly shredded.

  10. Bryan Harris
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Russia upset the EU through its actions in Crimea.
    …but the EU upset Russia in the first place, meddling as usual, trying to create a “Russian Spring” by interferring in Crimea….. When it was broadly known that any attempt to reduce the buffer zone around Russia was a red line for Putin.

    The meddling EU is totally responsible for the fighting, and deaths – Let’s put that back on the front page, where it belongs.

  11. fedupsoutherner
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    It would be good to see more dialogue between these leaders and better relationships all round. I hope Trump manages this.

    I see Justine Greening is calling for another referendum with 3 options now. What happens if the establishment don’t agree with the result? We had a referendum and it was to leave. There is no need for all this arguing in parliament when if MP’s just got on with the job in hand this would all be over with. Get on with what the voters told you to do. No doubt the government and the BBC will try their best to paint a doom and gloom picture but I hope the public are wise enough to think for themselves.

    • old salt
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Justin Greening needs to be reminded we had the referendum and it was OUT by TWO THIRDS constituencies. There is NO appetite for another. Now get on with it.

      If impossible with the present Remainer PM then there needs something to be done about that and rather urgently. There needs to be a leaver PM and cabinet. Business needs time to adjust. Already over two years have been lost. The occupying power will need determination and resolve to dislodge. Something seriously lacking in our present Government as a whole. So much for our so called representative democracy. If this falls that will be the end of democracy with no point in voting ever with any remaining confidence in the system destroyed. It is already on the way to prove we are living in an (un)elected (EU) dictatorship.

      Mrs May acquired votes from other parties under false pretences promising Brexit means Brexit etc. Even then she lost her majority in a GE she didn’t need to call with that abysmal manifesto so designed to lose.

      It has become blatantly obvious for some time we are not leaving under the present government as presently constituted.

  12. Lifelogic
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    It was certainly a Russian nerve agent it seem, but do we have any real evidence to show who actually did this crime and why yet. Usually the government are so keen to insist on not speculating before we have the evidence.

    Not even the remainers like Justine Greening are happy with May’s “change the names and remain in the EU while pretending not to” it seems.

    • Zorro
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I repeat – no evidence has been produced to show that this was a Russian made nerve agent. Look at the very carefully worded government statements. The information war has sustained this impression. A lot of other countries have the ability to produce a similar compound and have stated this already.

      Zorro

    • stred
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Novichock was invented in the USSR and other ex-communist countries apart from Russia know how to make it and could have stocks. The Russian on Today mentioned Ukraine, which is currently having a civil war with Russia. All ex- communist countries have violent mafias.

      The FBI is charging Russian agents with hacking the Democrats and giving embarrassing emails to be exposed during their election. Obama was caught hacking Mrs Merkel’s phone, was he not? It’s what spies do.

  13. formula57
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Crimea is Russian and the West needs to acknowledge that. As for conducting a “referendum to test opinion” the UK government is in no position to suggest that, having ignored our own EU referendum.

    The US legislative-military-industrial complex uses fear of Russia as a means to enrich itself and the Russian government uses fear of Western hostility to manage its own people. The UK therefore ought to steer its own course with a view to improving the Russian relationship.

    • Mitchel
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      The UK elite is frightened of loss of residual influence;as power and wealth moves East and the US drifts into semi-isolation and relative decline,Russia with it’s strategic partnership with China and influence over energy and newly emerging(or re-emerging) trade routes across Eurasia will become the centre of it all.The thought of it’s 19th century imperial competitor achieving this is too much for the old anglo-american establishment to bear!Hence the anti-Russian propaganda of recent years-unfortunately for the government the brilliantly managed grandeur of the World Cup experience has caused it’s narrative to collapse.

      • Mitchel
        Posted July 16, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        It’s very interesting to look at what is happening in the Far East-Mr Putin has formed a very close relationship with President Moon Jae-in of S Korea,a fellow visionary;the plans they are working on to create an integrated economic zone comprising North and South Korea and the Russian Far East(the “Moon-Putin plan”,the “Nine Bridges of Co-operation”) could be a source of explosive growth over the next couple of decades- in energy,agriculture,fisheries,shipbuilding,rail and other logistical infrastrusture,etc.The next regional development summit at Vladivostok in September may well have N Korea’s Kim as it’s star guest!

        There are also distinct signs that Russia is now developing Singapore as it’s preferred offshore financial hub-and getting a warm welcome from the authorities there.

    • forthurst
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      The ‘West’ were invited to act as observers but refused to attend. As far as Crimea was concerned, it was a no brainer, a choice between returning to Russia or being invaded by Right Sector thugs and experiencing the savagery subsequently inflicted in Odessa.

  14. Ian wragg
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Germany is in hoc to Russia and will do anything to maintain its manufactiring base.
    Merkel is an unreformed communists and can’t be trusted.
    I see the latest tac is if May gets deposed then Brexit will be cancelled.
    UKIP up to 8% and over 40000 members doesn’t look well for the government.

  15. Adam
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    The US & Russia are too far apart, & need a good intermediary negotiator. Theresa May is likely to be out of UK office soon, & could be a fine candidate.

    Alternatively, what other employment might suit her & be useful to us at home?

    – PCSO?
    – School headmistress?
    – Vicar?
    – Snow clearer?

    We need to find something suitable to attract her. Lure is more efficient than push.

    • NickC
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Adam, Con-woman?

    • Timaction
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Translator. No means yes, out means in!
      The politicians quotes: To be honest……….means lying.
      We have stood by the tests of the referendum……means we’ve called the EU’s institutions other names and will pretend to leave.
      A common rule book…………..means an EU rule book with no say. Vassal state forever!
      We will stick by our red lines…………means until we can find a way of producing a white paper by Sir Humphrey that will..LIE to the public!
      We will not pay the £1.7 billion EU surcharge……….means, until we can hide it a few months later……and on and on the legacy politicos go.
      Please feel free to add.

    • zorro
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Lollipop lady

      zorro

  16. David D
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Your government, Mr Redwood, has produced zero evidence of it’s absurd claims about Salisbury. It has hidden the alleged victims and the whole story more plot holes than The Last Jedi which is quite an achievement. You do nobody any favours by rehashing such drivel.
    America and the EU caused a ……
    revolution in Ukraine and the Crimeans wanted nothing to do with it, very wisely. 95% of Crimeans voted to return to Russia in a referendum. Now I know that democratic referendums are ignored or undermined here in the West but not in Russia. Western politicians have zero right or moral authority to even comment on their choices.
    Why don’t our alleged representatives concentrate on representing the wishes of British voters (for a change) and stop trying to start a war with Russia and anyone else as well?

  17. stred
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    From what I remember, the referendum in Crimea was observed by Austrian officials of some international body and judged fair. Crimea was made part of Ukraine by Kruschev, a Ukranian. Ukraine is being taken into the EU eventually in a plan that was backed by the US, with Mrs Nuland famously being recorded while helping out in the process of removing Russia’s ice free naval base. Perhaps Trump should offer to help re-run the referendum in the hope that the Russians there have changed their mind.

  18. alan jutson
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    One thing is for sure, Putin is going to be in place for a long time, so the West had better get used to the idea and formulate a plan that is going to have some benefit for him and us, even if it is only acknowledgement.

    One thing for sure, he organised a World cup tournament his way, and made a success of it.

    Most of the Countries who took part sent a representative, no matter what their political feelings.
    How good it was to see the Croation Prime Minister wearing her Country’s football shirt, and then giving her losing team players a big personal a hug, she did so whilst exposed to the pouring rain, whilst Putin had the largest umbrella to keep himself dry, thats a very simple action to show up people like Putin for what they are.
    Can you imagine our Prime Minister doing something similar, no chance.

  19. LondonBob
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Let us hope Trump repairs the damage Obama did.

    I have serious question as to what the heirs of Kim Philby have been up to. Starting with Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko, the US elections and continuing on to today.

  20. Psychic
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    …threats on both sides,..” What threats by Russia?

  21. Prigger
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Germany is in the only position to negotiate with Putin. It has trade with Russia..gas pipeline and much more. Trump knows that this is the only strong position he can borrow to use and makes a big thing about it of course. The only other option is to declare war on Russia.
    The UK has shot itself in the foot since the war by not actively trading with Russia and her allies, two of which are China and North Korea. No trade=no strength. Russia has withstood every onslaught by the West. Of course it would. We have fools in Government

  22. Original Richard
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    PS :

    It also explains the EU’s (Germany’s) push for all the other EU nations to become reliant on unreliable renewable energy.

  23. Trumpeteer
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Trump’s main objective is to make a trade deal with Russia and thus Russia continuing helping, as it has been doing, with North Korea. Russia’s trade with China is massive. She controls North Korea’s economy. The Art of the Deal. Trump’s intellect is far beyond western ideological understanding.

  24. ian
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Trump and Putin lay into them socialist liberals on the left and right in the west.

  25. margaret
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    We all need to grow up and make good relationships where we can. There are large parts of Asia and Africa where the natives cannot possibly understand a western life, but Russia exists to improve, as we and the USA do.Intelligence agencies can see to the underworld and Orpheus but we can all live as friends in a happier quasi Utopia. ( tongue not in cheek )

  26. mancunius
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    “Russia upset the EU through its actions in Crimea.”
    The west has completely forgotten all about Soviet and pre-Soviet eastern European history, so is fated to relive it.

    After Nato expanded its influence eastwards and destabilised the Russian hegemony over Ukraine (never a clearly defined or ethnically unifed independent nation), there were Nato maneouvres in Crimea, very close to the Russian coast. Given the obvious provocation to Russia, it was amazing that Putin didn’t react. He was clearly biding his time, and his subsequent re-occupation of Crimea a few years later should have come as no surprise.

    Naval power and an adequate seaboard of ports is important to Putin. My theory is that he intends in time to recover the Tsarist Black Sea possessions – including Odessa.

    • Mitchel
      Posted July 17, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      That’s been my view right from the start-most of Ukraine will ultimately return to Russia;the extreme western region centred on Lvov/Lviv which,having been part of the early medieval Russian state (but did not return to the fold until 1945)and which is the centre of Ukrainian nationalism could sheer off and,possibly,join Poland or the EU(it has variously been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian realm in centuries past).

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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