Russia doesn’t see UK as adversary, despite the ‘overt hostility’ – Moscow’s ambassador to London
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Yakovenko says that while the UK-Russia political relationship in recent years has been “quite volatile,” with “abrupt changes from relatively good to overt hostility,” he hopes Russia and Britain can learn to “cooperate.”
“Russia is ready to restore relations with the UK insofar as the British government is willing to do likewise. We will take reciprocal steps if the British leadership decides to change its stance towards Russia.”
Yakovenko says the UK announcing it would send hundreds of soldiers to the Baltic States to deter Russian aggression were “eastward steps contributing to the deterioration of the current situation” between the two countries.
“All these confrontational measures make us respond by ensuring that our defenses are strong enough in case of any contingency.”
He added that the Kremlin has never seen Britain or NATO as a threat to Russia.
Yakovenko said Britain and NATO appeared to be preparing for a “major war” in Europe, but still do not “know how to handle such an eventuality, which will require a decade-long arms race.”
He also said that Russian ships in the English Channel were “no grounds for conflict.”
“One should not forget that Russia is a major military power and we have got to keep our military in good shape and that means flying and sailing past the British Isles.
“That is pure geography. I can assure you that Russia doesn’t view Britain as a strategic adversary, and it just cannot be. There is nothing strategic for us to contest.”
Yakovenko said Russia wants cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including having military and Special Forces working together.
“The Soviet Union is gone and the historical West is going, too. We are witnessing the end of ideology, which offers a unique opportunity to mend Europe’s divide and put in place a truly regional system of collective security for all.”
He dismissed claims of a new Cold War, adding that Britain, the US, and Russia were “again on the same side, hopefully, the side of history.”
Diplomatic tensions between the UK and Russia have deteriorated over Moscow’s involvement with the Syria conflict.
“Over the past few days our military helped over 80,000 civilians leave Aleppo, still under the control of the jihadists, mostly foreigners, who intend to fight to the bitter end,” Yakovenko said.
“Russia will never walk away and leave the business of fighting terror unfinished, like we didn’t stop on our borders fighting Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany.”