UK Parliament urges dialogue with Moscow, engagement on ‘global security issues’

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Britain should restore political and military dialogue with Russia while NATO must be cautious on militarizing Eastern Europe, according to a UK Parliament Defence Committee report. The Kremlin says the document is a promising step forward.

“Dialogue between the UK and Russia is currently extremely sparse. We were told that relations were at an ‘all time low’… This needs to change,” reads the report released ahead of the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Warsaw on Friday. 

“We cannot hope for mutual understanding between ourselves and Russia if we do not have a meaningful dialogue, and under current conditions of mistrust we run the risk of a descent into conflict that may be preventable through better communication,” it adds.

The report also lists misunderstandings between London and Moscow, mainly over the issues of Crimea and the situation in eastern Ukraine.

It mentions however the importance of engaging Moscow in global security issues as well as building stronger links between Britain and Russia as part of “UK strategy.”

The comprehensive 58-page paper then discusses NATO-Russia relations, believed to be at an all-time low since the Western-backed coup in Ukraine toppled the elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

“Dialogue between NATO and Russia is essential to reduce the risk of military escalation and misunderstandings between them both,” the Defence Committee members wrote.

“We therefore welcome the reconvening of the NATO-Russia Council, while limited in outcomes, as an important step to re-establishing dialogue between Russia and the West.” The alliance ceased all practical cooperation with Moscow, including combating international terrorism, after Crimea opted to reunite with mainland Russia following a 2014 referendum.

NATO has also been engaged in a massive build-up in Eastern Europe to counter what it continues to call “Russian assertiveness,” with thousands of troops along with military hardware being deployed at Russia’s doorstep.

“We should expect any NATO military consolidation to be mirrored on the Russian side of the border. Further militarization of the border in this way could increase the risk of misunderstandings, miscalculation or accidents,” the report stated.

Either the UK or NATO “should be very clear in engaging Russia during the Warsaw Summit, and strive for transparency to explain the decisions that it takes,” it went on.

Moscow has welcomed the parts of the report urging better communication.

“I’d suggest seeing the report in a positive light because there’s an idea to establish dialogue, despite some misperceptions,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The UK’s “desire to talk” is in line with Moscow’s previous statements, Peskov said, adding that “both international and bilateral issues can and must be resolved through dialogue only.”

Speaking on NATO, the Kremlin spokesman said that its “expansionist policies once again highlight the aggressive nature of this organization.”

In his words, the bloc’s actions “do not contribute to the security of its members – on the contrary, they spark tensions across our common European continent in the first place.”

The British report urges an increase in military-to-military dialogue with Moscow “both before and during the Warsaw Summit” in order to “reduce the potential for an unintended escalation of hostilities.”

At the same time, the report levies multiple sharp criticisms at Russia, particularly over the issues of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

“Since the end of the Cold War, UK policy has been built on the foundation of a stable Europe in which the threat to NATO members is low. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine represent the biggest challenge to this stability,” it says.

Moscow, however, rejects this assessment of the situation.

“We do not agree with such wording as ‘annexation of Crimea’ – we do not understand it and we cannot agree with it,” Peskov said, commenting on some statements presented in the Defence Committee report.

He also called the report’s statements concerning the situation in the Eastern Ukraine “misinterpretation and miswording.”

Meanwhile, the Defence Committee also demanded that the EU economic sanctions on Russia remain in place as their “impact on Russia’s military posture has been minimal.” The UK will insist that they be prolonged, though it would be no easy task “in the light of the Brexit decision.”

The report demonstrates how the UK “is completely incapable (and unwilling) of empathizing with Russia's legitimate concerns over NATO's presence on its borders,” Dr Marcus Papadopoulos, a publisher and editor of Politics First magazine, told RT.

According to Papadopoulos, London’s calls for continued EU sanctions on Russia and for a boost in the NATO presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States “will serve only to make an already dire state of relations between Russia and NATO even worse.”

“The report demonstrates that whether a member of the EU or not, Britain, along with the US, will continue to lead an antagonistic and jingoistic campaign against Russia and Russians, thereby threatening global peace and security,” he added.