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Parliament calls on Foreign Office to clarify what UK wants from relations with Russia

March 02, 2017, 9:26 UTC+3 LONDON

According to the Chair of the Committee Crispin Blunt, "the FCO’s Russia expertise has disintegrated since the end of the Cold War."

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LONDON, March 2. /TASS/. The British Foreign Office does not seem to have identified what the UK wants from its relations with Russia, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report dubbed "The United Kingdom’s relations with Russia."

"We are not convinced that the FCO [Foreign Office] and Government Ministers have identified what Russia wants from the UK, or what, if anything, the UK should seek to accomplish through bilateral engagement with Russia," the report reads.

Dialogue on specific issues

The Committee members believe that "the FCO should clarify what the UK wants to achieve in its bilateral engagement with Russia." According to the report, "this should involve dialogue on specific issues, such as counter-terrorism, cybersecurity or aviation security, in order to establish both points of agreement and points of difference."

"Having established its terms of reference, the FCO should conduct a meaningful and regular political dialogue with the Russian Government, including at the highest ministerial levels. Ministers should conduct this dialogue in a spirit of frankness and honesty, based on clear analysis of the UK’s immediate and long-term strategic goals for its relationship with Russia," the report adds.

Need to invest in analytical capacity

The report also says that in order to reach these goals, "the FCO must once again invest in the analytical capacity to understand Russian decision-making in order to develop effective and informed foreign policy." The Committee members point out that "this should involve engaging with think-tanks and universities that study Russia, recruiting and training FCO Russia specialists and developing Russian language skills in the FCO."

The Committee notes that "bearing in mind the ongoing tensions in the UK-Russia relationship and its long-term importance to our security, the policy area would merit the appointment of a junior FCO Minister with more specific responsibility for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with sufficient resources to carry out the role."

According to the Chair of the Committee Crispin Blunt, "the FCO’s Russia expertise has disintegrated since the end of the Cold War." "This must be reversed. We encourage the FCO to develop a long-term, people-to-people strategy to build bridges with the next generation of Russian political and economic leaders," he added.

Fundamentally different perceptions

The report goes on to say that "the bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia is at its most strained point since the end of the Cold war" "because Russia and the UK have fundamentally different perceptions of recent history and the current international order."

At the same time, the Committee members point out that "refusal to engage with the Russian Government is, however, not a viable long-term foreign policy option for the UK, because Russia is a European nuclear-armed United Nations Security Council member state."

According to Blunt, "the UK is not Russia’s enemy. In the long term, Russia’s focus on its western borders may be misplaced. In reality, the China-Russia relationship may be the critical international relationship to watch in the next 50 years.".

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