» Tuesday, June 5, 2007

G8 and Russia

Asked what kind of co-ordination was there for a common response to President Putin and what did that do to the prospects for a bilateral between the Prime Minister and President Putin at the G8, the PMOS said he wanted to make one point. There was one thing that people need to be careful about; obviously President Putin’s comments means that there will be a general discussion about this issue at some stage during the summit, but let’s be clear, the kernel of the summit remained Africa and Climate Change. That remained the case, so therefore that was the subject where there will be the most discussion. The PMOS added in response to the reporter’s question, there was not that much needed in terms of coordination. If you looked at the EU Informal Summit in Lahti, the EU was not shy in putting forward its views to President Putin on that occasion. If you looked at the EU/Russia Summit recently, the same thing happened. It was not a question of people ganging up on Russia, it was people expressing their views and concerns but also a desire to have a genuine, constructive relationship.

Put to the PMOS that in the past Chancellor Merkel amongst others, have talked about having talks through NATO, and that a common NATO position would be very different, the PMOS said that that the universality of the views at Lahti showed such uniformity already more or less existed.

Asked if the UK understood something of President Putin’s concerns about America placing bases in places that were once part of the Soviet Union, the PMOS said firstly, the missile defence system is not a defence system against Russia, because given where they are placed it would not be effective given the number of Russian missiles, the missiles were to be aimed at rogue states. Secondly, the reality is that the countries which have chosen to host these sites are sovereign countries and they should be seen as sovereign countries which are capable of making up their own minds about whether to host the sites or not. The issue of sovereignty is at the kernel of the dispute, whether these countries do have the right to make up their own minds or not. Our view is that sovereign countries should, as they are democratically selected countries.

Asked if there had been a British response to President Putin’s remarks, the PMOS said it was for Russia to decide what sort of relationship it wanted, we wanted a constructive relationship both politically and economically but Russia had to decide if it shared the values of diplomacy, politics and economics.

Asked if that meant including the rule of law in relation to Litvinenko, the PMOS said that the issue was on the agenda already. It was not off the agenda in any sense. It was a very serious crime that was being investigated with very serious evidence has been presented to the Russians and we expected an equally serious reply, and a formal reply.

Put to the PMOS that on the point of sovereignty, could the Russians have not said the same about Cuba at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the PMOS said that there are many, many things that can be debated in lobby but if the reporter didn’t mind at the time of the Cuban missile crisis the PMOS was a bit young. Put to the PMOS that the Russians may have a point that there are bases very close to their borders, the PMOS said that as he understood it the US had done all it could to show the Russians precisely that the bases are defensive, the countries who are hosting the bases are democratically elected governments which have a right to make up their own minds.

Asked what the likelihood of a bilateral between the Prime Minister and President Putin was at the G8, the PMOS said he hoped he’d indicated that it was likely that the Prime Minister would have a bilateral with President Putin since these were normal at G8.

Asked if it was correct to characterise the remarks made by President Putin as a huge setback for prospects of a decent relationship with Russia, the PMOS said he thought it all depended on what happened next.

Asked if this reinforced the need for an independent nuclear energy policy, the PMOS said that one of the reasons for having a diversity of supply was precisely so you did not become over dependent on one single source.

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

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