Fears expressed for British-Russia relations
The level of cooperation between Moscow and London risks going “below zero,” Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu warned during a meeting on Friday. His British counterpart, Ben Wallace, called the negotiations in Moscow “constructive.”
The first meeting of the defense ministers in years, it came amid a crisis over Ukraine, with Western countries repeatedly accusing Russia of an alleged plan to invade Ukraine. Moscow categorically denies these claims.
“The situation in Europe is becoming more and more tense, and it is by no means our fault,” Shoigu said. He warned against threatening Russia with sanctions and called on the West “to stop stuffing Ukraine with weapons.” The minister expressed hope that his meeting with Wallace would turn out to be substantial and cover the urgent and real threats the world is now facing.
“Unfortunately, the level of our cooperation is close to zero and is about to cross the zero meridian and go below zero, which I really would not like to happen,” Shoigu added.
Some of Moscow’s concerns, according to Wallace, have been heard.
“I heard clearly from the Russian government that they had no intention of invading Ukraine. And I also heard some of their concerns,” the UK minister said at the press conference in the British Embassy following the meeting. He also revealed that, in his conversation with Shoigu, there has been “absolutely no deafness or blindness” which, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, marked yesterday’s negotiations with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
However, according to Wallace, while the discussion had been “constructive and frank,” there was “still [a] considerable way to go” between the two sides.
“The disposition of the Russian forces that we see – over 100,000 in both Belarus and Ukraine – obviously gives that size of force the ability to do a whole range of actions, including an invasion of a neighboring country at any time,” he explained.
During his visit to Russia, Wallace also laid down flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and, accompanied by Shoigu, visited an exhibition on cooperation between the Allies in WWII.