02:25 GMT +318 November 2019
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    UK Government Slammed for Failure to Engage With Russia

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    A new report by MPs in the UK House of Commons has said the British Foreign Office (FCO) "appears not to know what it wants from its relations with Russia" and that it should immediately put more resources into more dialogue with Moscow in a "spirit of frankness and honesty."

    The report from the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee says the UK Foreign Office should "clarify what the UK wants to achieve in its bilateral engagement with Russia." It says this should involve dialogue on specific issues, such as counterterrorism, cybersecurity or aviation security, in order to establish both points of agreement and points of difference.

    "Ministers should conduct this dialogue in a spirit of frankness and honesty, based on clear analysis of the UK's immediate and long-term strategic goals for its relationship with Russia," the report says. 

    Giving evidence to the committee, Professor Alena Ledeneva of University College London, criticized the UK Government for failing to respond effectively to Russian diplomatic overtures.

    "When I look at policies towards Russia, what I see is a lot of missed opportunities. Those occur every time you have some initiative from Russia. For example, when Dmitry Medvedev in his presidency wanted to co-operate on EU security issues, there were no takers. These kinds of moments are where the policy failure is best seen.

    "That was a chance to actually engage around the agenda, and it could have transformed the process, but there is always a sharp 'no.' The way the Russians see it is that everything that comes from Russia is met with a 'no.' but everything that comes from the West is imposed on them as if they are the inferior partner," Prof. Ledeneva said.

    The report highlighted the World Cup as an opportunity to improve UK-Russian relations.

    "The FCO should use this tournament and others to enhance and repair the wider relationship between the UK and Russia, rather than boycott sport in response to other strained aspects of UK-Russia relations," the report stressed.

    ​The committee also looked at the role played by the media in relations between the UK and Russia, saying the ability of broadcasters such as RT and Sputnik to operate in the UK should be considered a sign of British strength.

    "In recognition of the reach and impact of the Russian Government's information campaign, the BBC World Service announced its largest expansion since the 1940s in November 2016. Although welcome, this announcement also inadvertently supports the contention of agencies such as RT and Sputnik that their operations are analogous to those of the BBC World Service," the report says.

    "The FCO's Russia expertise has disintegrated since the end of the Cold War. This must be reversed. The Committee recommends increased FCO resources to enhance the UK's analytical and policymaking capacity, and the appointment of an FCO minister with more specific responsibility for Russia. We encourage the FCO to develop a long-term, people-to-people strategy to build bridges with the next generation of Russian political and economic leaders," chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP said.

    Chairman of the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt said to RIA Novosti that he expects the UK government to give an official response to the committee’s report within two months.


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