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Hard-headed approach needed to engage with Russia, warns Defence Committee

Monday, July 13
The UK House of Commons Defence Committee has released its tenth report of Session 2008-2009, entitled “Russia: a new confrontation?” Here The Messenger publishes extracts from the Report provided by the British Embassy in Georgia.

Russia has attempted to create a sphere of influence over other former Soviet states through the threat and use not just of military action, but increasingly through the use of foreign policy tools such as energy, says today's report by the Defence Select Committee. The report, entitled "Russia: a new confrontation?", is wide-ranging and covers NATO’s engagement with Russia, the Georgia conflict, energy security and global security matters.

The report states that Russia has valid interests in those countries that surround it, but to allow undue Russian influence in these countries would risk increasing Russian assertiveness and possibly compromise the sovereignty of these states. The Rt. Hon James Arbuthnot MP, Chairman of the Defence Committee, said “The Government should adopt a hard-headed approach to engagement with Russia, based on the reality of Russia’s foreign policy rather than abstract and misleading notions of shared values.”

The Committee concludes that NATO has a critical role in working in partnership with Russia on issues of shared global concern such as tackling terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and climate change. The Committee welcomes the resumption of formal engagement between NATO and Russia on the NATO-Russia Council. Yet it also calls on NATO to ensure that areas of disagreement are discussed with Russia, as well as areas of cooperation.

The Committee expresses concern about the conflict in Georgia and the possibility of further military action. The Chairman said “I am dismayed that the mandates for the UN and OSCE monitoring missions in Georgia have not been extended. The international community, including the remaining EU monitoring mission in Georgia, has an important role in mitigating the risk of further conflict in the region. The Government should send a strong message to Russia that it needs to withdraw its military forces from Georgian territory to their pre-conflict positions.”

In its report, the Committee draws attention to the security concerns of many of Russia’s neighbouring states that have arisen as a result of Russia’s actions in Georgia. The Committee recommends that NATO maintain a visible military presence in the Baltic States to reassure its Central and Eastern European members.