15 December 2018
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286 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     278 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

13.12.2016

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for The Daily Mail (full text)

1. Question: Does Russia hope for better co-operation (both political and military) with the UK and how can this be achieved/ what would this look like?

Answer: Unlike MI-6 Director Alex Younger’s portrayal of Russia, 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. We hope for real cooperation, not war of words, primarily in the fight against terrorism, including military and special services cooperation, in political settlement in Syria and other international issues.

As to how a normal relationship would look like. Over the past two years and a half the Embassy has been traveling the length and breadth of Britain to present the Ushakov medal, our naval honour, to the 3300 surviving British veterans of the Arctic Convoys. It helped us reach out to thousands, if not dozens of thousands of people from all walks of life. Our impression is that there exists an unbridgeable gap between the British people at large and the officialdom in their view of Russia. Overall, people just don’t understand policies that are not sustainable in the short run and do not make business sense.

We have been allies in two world wars. Given Brexit and the fact that the Cold War and post-Cold War were time warps, we are again on the same side, this time on the side of the global small “c” conservative revolution of common sense, which reaffirms time-tested traditional values, including those of international relations. There is nothing more to wait for. All the things that matter in global politics have already happened, prepared by a steady accumulation of problems and contradictions within Western societies. The Brexit and other events of this year plainly make those things obvious to all. That’s why we are hopeful.

2. Question: What is the Ambassador’s view on the condemnation of Russia’s air strikes in Aleppo by UK politicians such as Boris Johnson and Michael Fallon?

Answer: A year or so ago I met the then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and officially requested cooperation in targeting in Syria between our militaries, which would take possible British concerns into account. It was met with a decisive “no”. On Aleppo, we have also formally requested the Foreign Office to provide the proof that supports those allegations of Boris Johnson. We have received none. Any reference to images or photos published in social networks is not serious. We have always welcomed an independent and impartial investigation of incidents, including the one on 19 September with the UN humanitarian convoy. Otherwise, it is propaganda pure and clear.

It should be borne in mind though, that our Air Force stopped its operations in East Aleppo almost two months ago. And what is relevant is the inability of the American partners to deliver on the promise to ensure that “moderate opposition” disengage from outright extremists and terrorists. One cannot fight for a secular democracy in Syria under the banners of “Al-Qaeda” or “Islamic State”. It is a clear case of the biblical truth of separating the wheat from the chaff. Maybe, somebody doesn’t want Russia to succeed where they failed, given the disastrous experience of the West in Iraq?

Over the past few days our military helped over 80 thousand civilians leave the contracting area of Aleppo, still under the control of the jihadists, mostly foreigners, who intend to fight to the bitter end. I can assure you that 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. About 2000 ‘rebels’ laid down arms.

3. Question: British jets and ships have scrambled several times over the past few months to “intercept” Russian jets and ships flying close to UK airspace/ through the Channel. The UK MoD has said they are keeping a “watchful eye” on the ships. What is the Russian response to claims that these are acts of provocation?

Answer: the British MoD has also emphasized that Russian military aircraft and ships never violated UK sovereign airspace and territorial waters. Therefore, there’s no grounds for conflict. The Russian planes and ships fulfil their assigned tasks of patrol or transit, while the UK side has a right to “keep an eye” on them. One should not forget that Russia is a major military power and we have got to keep our military in a good shape and that means flying and sailing past the British Isles. That is pure geography.

By the way, when our warships passed recently through the Channel many considered it a good opportunity to watch our navy. Some time ago we received a letter from a headmaster of a British school with the request to ensure that our strategic bombers fly past Britain on a certain day of a school festival in order that all could watch British fighters scramble from a nearby airstrip. Of course, we couldn’t oblige, but I think, that is a very British attitude.

4. Question: There have been suggestions of a new Cold War/ possibility of World War Three – is there any truth in that?

Answer: None at all. The Cold War was an ideological confrontation between the West and the Soviet Union. 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. It could be done by way of further institutionalization of the OSCE, strengthening its military and political components. Of course, the past 25 years have been wasted in that regard, but better late than never.

Unfortunately, our partners opted to expand NATO eastwards and to bring the alliance’s territory and infrastructure closer to our borders. This is the essence of the systemic problems that have soured Russia’s relations with the United States and other NATO members. For us, NATO provides the US with a strategic space in Europe to deploy its military assets, including ballistic missile defense.

But most of the problems, if not all, are due to the lack of trust. Once mutual trust is restored, they’ll be resolved with an unbearable lightness.

5. Question: Are NATO and Britain’s membership of the alliance a threat to Russia?

Answer: Russia has never considered NATO and Great Britain as a threat. It is the NATO’s response to the Ukrainian crisis that is alarming. Its eastward steps contribute to deterioration of the current situation. It looks like NATO is getting prepared for a major war in Europe, but still doesn’t know how to handle such eventuality, which will require a decade-long arms race. All these confrontational measures make us respond by ensuring that our defenses are strong enough in case of any contingency.

6. Question: Could Brexit improve Russia-UK relations?

Answer: Brexit is a purely internal affair of the United Kingdom. Russia strictly complies with the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. Though it’s true, that fundamentally Brexit is about independence and sovereignty, which are essential for democratic accountability and legitimacy. Here we are on the same wave length. It is also true, that economic sustainability should be first achieved within national borders, and free trade should be a function of domestic economic strength. As a matter of course, it was Gordon Brown who coined the term ‘deglobalisation’.

France on the eve of WWI is a good example of what happens to a nation when in invests abroad rather then at home. It leads to underdevelopment. We, in Russia, have been doing our best to use our own sources of economic growth, partly thanks to Western sanctions and the drop in the price of oil. So, we are better prepared to compete abroad.

7. Question: Will there be any impact on Russia/UK relations when the new Arctic shipping route is fully opened up?

Answer: If you mean Russian efforts to develop the Northern Sea Route (NSR), then, first of all, I would like to stress that it provides a potentially attractive shortcut linking Europe to Asia, and has many advantages over traditionally used Suez Canal. For instance, it is 30% shorter by distance that leads to substantial cost savings in terms of fuel (up to 45%), it is much safer since there is no pirates along the route. We’ll ensure security along the way.

This means that European citizens, including those in the UK, will benefit from cheaper prices on goods made in Asia and European companies could make their products more competitive in that region. Great Britain is a traditional a free-trader and the NSR will help to boost international trade and contribute to global growth.

8. Question: What does the Ambassador envisage for the future of UK/ Russia relation? Will Trump have any affect on this?

Answer: In recent years, out bilateral political relationship has been quite volatile, saw abrupt changes from relatively good to overt hostility, including freezing by the British side of all our inter-governmental contacts and cooperation two and a half years ago. This appears to reflect the general state of our relations with the West. Moreover, unable to give up its claim to universal truth in international affairs, London has, quite short-sightedly, positioned itself on the cutting edge of such complications, in other words, has been shaking the speare. Was it wise?

The only way to put the relationship back on track is to engage in a dialogue based on mutual respect and recognition of honest differences. Russia is ready to restore its 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. As I have already said, and that is the view of 
The Economist (I mean their recent cover), Britain, the United States and Russia are again on the same side, hopefully, the side of history with a good prospect of others joining in. And this holds the promise of bringing the great post-Cold War misunderstanding between Russia and the West to an end. Just imagine what it was like a hundred years ago minus war, empires and ideology, plus common sense, the common experience of the XXth century and of the first 16 years of the new one!




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