Sputnik: UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said yesterday that "Russia is one of the biggest threats the UK faced" — do you agree with that assessment?
George Szamuely: The talk about Russia as a threat to Britain – it’s very hard to see how in any possible way Russia is a threat to Britain. It is Britain that is threatening to deploy forces close to the Russian border in Ukraine, in the Black Sea, and now in the Arctic and in the Baltic Sea. I don’t see any Russian forces in the North Sea or somewhere in the English Channel. So it’s very hard to see how Russia in any way is threatening Britain.
Sputnik: Is this a convenient distraction from the turmoil surrounding Brexit negotiations and is Britain trying to reassert itself in preparation for leaving the EU?
George Szamuely: This is part and parcel of what the British are also trying to do. They’re trying to persuade the Americans: "Well look, here the EU, this terrible EU could well become a partner to the Russians and this is your worst nightmare, but we the British can prevent this." And I think that’s what it’s all about; to give Britain this important new role as a lieutenant trying to break up this possible Euro-Russian alliance. So on one level it is a distraction from the obvious failures of the Brexit negotiations but on a deeper level it is an attempt by the British and the Americans to thwart any Russian-Euro alliance whereby Russia provides Europe…satisfies Europe’s energy needs while Europe, Germany in particular, provides Russia with investment capital. And this, the British are determined to thwart.
Sputnik: Regarding this new Arctic strategy with 800 troops being sent to combat Russian submarine activity in the Arctic — far from de-escalation this seems to be a rather provocative move is it not, especially considering the distance from UK territory?
George Szamuely: Russia is an Arctic power! These are thousands of miles of territory that are frozen by the Arctic. I don’t know what exactly he thinks the Russians are going to do in the Arctic. The idea that they are going to seize some piece of territory in the Arctic is itself ludicrous — there are international agreements which bind the exploitation of the Arctic. So as you say what he’s talking about – building military bases in Norway explicitly directed against the Russians – is extraordinarily provocative because it does suggest that Britain is trying to prevent Russia from enjoying the benefits of navigation and whatever natural resources are in the Arctic. So this is all extraordinarily dangerous and reckless.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.