‘Russia-UK ties on the way to thawing – which is to mutual benefit’

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin. © Reuters
Both Russia and the UK have to deal with fighting ISIS and the threat of terrorism and it’s about time they understood it’s better to do it united, says journalist and author John Wight commenting on a possible thaw in Moscow-London ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Britain's new Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 summit in China next month. In their first phone conversation since May took office, the two leaders agreed Russia and the UK need to work together - meaning a stronger economic partnership, and closer dialogue between the two countries' security agencies.

RT: President Putin met the Turkish President on Tuesday trying to repair a severely damaged relationship. Now a meeting is lined up with Theresa May. Are we seeing a realignment of Russia's relations with key powers?

John Wight: It certainly looks that way. Putin can be proud of his achievement this week in effect in a rapprochement of relations with Turkey vis-à-vis his meeting with Recep Erdogan in Saint Petersburg. So it is very encouraging for him and also it looks like there can be better relations on the way between the UK and Russia.

It is very important if it happens. It is very important for Britain in the sense that Theresa May has assumed the reins of government in Downing Street at a time of deep economic and political uncertainty in the UK in light of the Brexit vote. She will be under no illusions with regard to the significance of Turkey moving closer to Russia again, given the state of their relations over the past nine months since the shooting down of the Russian aircraft by a Turkish aircraft. So there is a lot to play for.

Also Putin will be keen to establish a closer relationship with the UK, given that a new US President is on the way in November. That is likely to be Hillary Clinton, who we know to be very, very hawkish with regards to Russia. There are many, many strands to this, but for both countries it is very important their relations get off to a new start in light of Theresa May’s assumption of power in Downing Street.

RT: David Cameron was highly critical of Putin, especially over Ukraine. Do you think Theresa May will take a different approach? 

JW: Yes, she is now prime minister – it is a different role. But events are driving this change in attitude – not really any kind of ideological shift, because of Britain’s new state of post-Brexit crisis (and) the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. Also they have things in common they need to deal with. They need to deal with events in the Middle East with regards to the ongoing struggle against ISIS, the threat of terrorism, which affects both countries.

Russia will be keen to try and affect some kind of change in attitude vis-à-vis NATO expansion and encirclement.  So they both have very, very serious issues to deal with, and it is about time that they understood that it is better to do so united rather than disunited. Putin has been calling for such unity, for better relations between Russia and the European partners for many, many years now. Let’s hope now that is the start of something happening in this regard. 

RT: Last year, Cameron threatened to take sanctions against Russia "to a whole different level." Now that he's out, do you expect the sanctions to be lifted by the UK?

JW: I think that will depend on the attitude of Germany and France, which are less keen on the sanctions. These sanctions have been pushed by Washington. And David Cameron has been keen to bonus his own credential to Washington in this regard. That is what fueled his stance. The Obama Presidency is winding down to its end. Obviously, the huge interest will be with regard to….who’s likely to be Hillary Clinton. Her harsh stance will be when she assumes power in the White House. That is going to be the key relationship that Putin will have to deal with. It helps in this regard if he can in the meantime effect better relations with Britain and with other European neighbors. He has already done that with Turkey. So that could only help in that course.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.