» Monday, June 4, 2007


Asked what the Prime Minister’s response was to President Putin’s words in the Times, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that the new missile defence system that was being put forward by the US was not aimed at Russia, as had been made clear. Rather, it was being aimed at the possibility of rogue states having nuclear weapons. The weapons would not be effective against Russia, given the size of its arsenal, and the position of the defence system in Europe which was too close to Russia, therefore it would be not be effective. The PMOS explained that in terms of the number of missiles that Russia had, it would not be effective on in terms of its positioning. With regards to the overall position with Russia, we wanted to have a construction dialogue with Russia, and we wanted to be able to talk about issues such as Kosovo, Iran and other world global issues in a constructive way. Equally, Europe as a whole, as was seen at the Lahkti conference in October, did have concerns with Russian behaviour, and would not be shy in expressing those concerns. What we wanted was a constructive relationship, but the nature of that relationship was as much up to Russia as it was to us.

Asked to explore further what the Prime Minister’s response was to President Putin, and did he feel that this was threatening, the PMOS said that it was never helpful to provide a running commentary on what other leaders said. Therefore, it was better to say what sort of relationship it was that we wanted. We wanted a constructive relationship, but whether there was one was as much up to Russia as us.

Asked if Russia did start aiming missiles at the UK, would that make the argument for Trident even more necessary, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into hypotheticals. The case for Trident was well set out, and it was about an uncertain world, not just today but in the timescale that the new Trident would take effect.

Put that President Putin had said that he would start targeting Europe, the PMOS replied that the case for Trident rested on the fact that we were facing an uncertain world. However, the PMOS said that he was not going to make the connection between the two.

Asked if the Prime Minister accepted that there would be no chance in getting the KGB man extradited to the UK, the PMOS said that we had not had a formal response from Russia. What we did have was a well argued, well documented case which the Russians were aware of. We await their response.

Asked if there were any plans for a bilateral with President Putin at the G8 Summit this week, the PMOS replied that people should wait and see what happened. They had met at G8 meetings in the past.

Put that President Putin had already responded to the request for extradition, the PMOS said that we had heard voices, including elders from within the system, but what we had not had was a formal response. We believed in doing this the proper way.

Asked if the Prime Minister was likely to say to Mr. Putin that he didn’t think they should be targeting UK targets, the PMOS said that there were certain things that were statements of the obvious and he was not going to make the journalists’ headlines for them. We wanted a constructive relationship, and people had a good idea of what that was. The choice was Russia’s as to what sort of relationship it wanted, both politically and economically. Did it want there to be a climate in which people would want to invest in Russia and feel secure in doing so. These were decisions that were not ours to make. Rather, it was a matter for Russia.

Asked if there were any concerns about Russia breaking their contracts with Shell and BP, and might the Prime Minister raise it at G8, the PMOS replied that we always discussed the economic side as well as the political side. The sort of investment climate in a country depended on the way in which it treated companies, and that was simply a statement of fact. Again, that was a matter for Russia to decide.

Asked if the British offer to the US to host the radar in the UK still stood, the PMOS said that people knew what the position of other countries in Europe was and what they said. We would continue to discuss matters with the US.

Asked further about security of energy supply, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had said at the time that he was outlining the general context for the Energy White Paper that part of that was a wariness at a time when our own oil and gas production was going down, not up, and we did not want to become over-reliant on single sources of energy. Therefore, in terms of the overall climate, we had seen the problems that over-reliance on one source of energy could cause for countries in Europe. That was part of the overall context.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the missiles issue could overshadow issues such as Africa and climate change at the G8, the PMOS replied no. If people looked at what the German Presidency had established as its twin priorities for the G8, that was Africa and climate change. It was now recognised globally that those were two of the major concerns of the world today, and countries would want to pursue answers to them. We of course were glad and delighted that that was the case because we established those priorities in Gleneagles, and we wanted to follow through on Gleneagles, and we believed that this G8 would be important in doing so.

Asked if there was concern that Russia might try and force its own agenda on the G8, the PMOS said that if other issues wanted to be discussed, then they could be. However, the German Presidency had established what its priorities were, and they were Africa and climate change.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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