July 7, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6510

One Day To The NATO Summit In Warsaw, Russian Reactions To UK Parliament's Report On British And NATO Relations With Russia

July 7, 2016
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6510

On July 5, 2016, the defense committee of the British House of Commons published a comprehensive report on UK and NATO's relations with Russia, titled "Russia: Implications for UK Defense and Security."[1] The report stresses that the forthcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw should reassess the following: NATO's doctrine and capability to respond to both the speed of Russian deployment, and the implications of Russia's ability to keep the West in the dark until it is ready to initiate military action. The report also underlines that the NATO summit should be an opportunity to acknowledge the rapid militarization of the Russian state and develop measures to counter it, and in particular how to strengthen the NATO deterrent in the Baltics and Poland.

The report also concludes that Russia has increasingly demonstrated military aggressiveness in different regions, as well as the ability "to create confusion, fear and doubt in others, including NATO member states." In order to remove such doubt the alliance cannot suffice with "Lukewarm responses [that] will not gain respect from Russia, will not improve our relationship with Russia, nor engineer a more palatable environment for European defense." Russia must be convinced that "Article 5 would be triggered should NATO consider that one of its member states has been the subject of an armed attack."[2]   The report states: "It is likely that Russia will continue to use military means and unconventional warfare as ways of reasserting what it believes to be its rightful role on the international stage." Another report recommendation calls for renewing EU sanctions on Russia in July and pressing the British government to place travel bans on a larger slice of the Russian leadership. However, the report insists that dialogue between NATO and Russia remains essential for reducing the risk of military escalation and misunderstandings between both countries.

Russian officials were generally critical of the report, and some of their reactions are provided below:

Vitaly Podvitsky,, July 5, 2016

Kremlin Spokesperson Accentuates The Positive, But Insists That NATO's Expansion Eastward Is The Real Challenge To Europe's Stability

Commenting on the report, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin prefers to look at the positive side of the document - the part emphasizing the need for cooperation with Russia. Peskov said: "I would prefer to look at the report through a positive lens, because - despite [our] disagreements -it contains an idea about the necessity to restore the dialogue."[3] He then added: "Much to our regret, the British side is famous for its passion for curtailing, fully curtailing dialogue in various areas, including the most sensitive and the most important ones...Therefore, the desire to communicate is a source of satisfaction, which fully conforms to Moscow's consistent stance that both international issues and bilateral problems can only be addressed by means of dialogue."[4] Peskov then criticized the chapter in the report dedicated to Crimea. He stressed that Moscow rejects the term "Russia's annexation of Crimea"[5]  and the report's comment that Russia's "military intervention in eastern Ukraine" represents "the biggest challenge" to the region's stability. From Moscow's perspective, Peskov said, it is NATO's eastward expansion that represents the greatest challenge to stability in Europe.[6]

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson On UK Defense Committee's Calls To Renew EU Sanctions: 'You Are Exiting The EU, Aren't You?!'

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized the document, and viewed the Leave victory in the Brexit referendum, and the British Parliament's presumption to recommend the renewal of EU sanctions as contradictory. Zakharova wrote on her Facebook personal page:  "The Defense Committee of the British Parliament has called for promoting the expansion of the EU sanctions against Russia by including in the corresponding list more Russian government officials...You are exiting the EU, aren't you?! And you know the negative impact of the sanctions policy on the EU, don't you?! And you still push the Europeans to the precipice. This is absolute impudence and meanness."[7]

Russian Senator Klintsevich: '[The Report] Uses Phrases From The Arsenal Of The Cold War'

Senator Franz Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament, said: "The British committee's recommendations were written specifically ahead of the Warsaw Summit... Instead of meaningful suggestions aimed at reducing tensions they use phrases from the arsenal of the Cold War... I think that arguments about the importance of a dialogue between Russia and NATO do not change the overall perception of the recommendations' assessment...You cannot have dialogue about everything while simultaneously speaking about nothing. First we should define the parameters of such a dialogue. And this is exactly what the British MPs do not do, but they are engaged in just labeling us..."[8]

Senator Kosachev: The Call For Dialogue Coupled With A Call For Deterrence Is 'Doublethink'

The Federation Council foreign affairs committee chairman, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, said that the UK Parliament's report conforms to NATO policy. Kosachev charges that the call for dialogue coupled with the call for deterrence is "doublethink" by definition. According to Kosachev, NATO is reinforcing itself on the eastern flank while leaving a window open not for dialogue, but for Russia's capitulation. In his assessment NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's recent interview to the Russian news agency is proof positive of this policy. In the interview, Stoltenberg said: "The alliance's relations with Russia depend on a clear, constructive change in Russia's actions, which demonstrates compliance with international law and with its international obligations and responsibilities. So the ball is in Russia's court."[9] According to Kosachev, Stoltenberg's sentence "the ball is in Russia's court" is tantamount to a demand for Russia's surrender.[10]

Arbatov: The British Act As We Do In The Real World Of International Politics

Alexey Arbatov, CEO of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations' (IMEMO) Center of International Security sought to present a more realistic approach in an interview with Kommersant.[11] The UK may be on its way out of the EU but it remained a leading power in NATO and the most important US ally in Europe.

It was normal for a country to seek dialogue while taking measures to reinforce deterrence: "There is no internal contradiction. This is politics, in which the mutual interests and conflicts are present. We do exactly the same: on the one hand we increase the nuclear deterrence potential, build up general military forces, including in the European part of Russia along the borders and in the Arctic, while on the other hand we suggest cooperation in Syria including joint operations against terrorists. It's not an 'either-or' question, it's about what you accentuate. If the main accent is confrontational, then the cooperation issues shrink to non-existence. If the main accent is on cooperation - the confrontation deescalates."

Senator Morozov: The Anti-Russian Rhetoric Is The UK's Way To Compensate Itself For Losses Incurred By Brexit

Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs member Senator Igor Morozov said: "The threat from the East, emanating from Russia, is now the main argument of London's political rhetoric. In this way, they try to compensate for political and image losses incurred as a result of Brexit. Statements about the need for dialogue in this case I believe are only a trick."[12] 

Duma Deputy Speaker: 'This Report Is Just Another Aspect Of An Unfolding Elections Campaign'

The Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Sergey Zheleznyak said: "Now, at a time when Britain voted to leave the EU and questions are arising about the [Brexit] procedures, [the government] needs to project some strength. This warmongering report is intended for domestic needs more than for the external audience. Great Britain also wants to signal to other European NATO countries that it is ready to be a front post of warmongering and confrontation vis-à-vis Russia." Zheleznyak added: "We also understand that this report is just another aspect of an unfolding elections campaign. The departing prime minister [David Cameron] and a new prime minister will need political support - and, probably, this report is just a means for gaining support from the conservative and radical parts of Britain's society."[13]


[1] See: House of Commons Defense Committee, Russia: Implications for UK defense and security, First Report of Session 2016-17, July 5, 2016

[2] Article 5 in the 1949 Washington Treaty that established NATO enshrines the principle of collective self-defense: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."

[3], July 5, 2016.

[4], July 5, 2016.

[5] The official Russian position is that the March 2014 referendum, in which the residents of Crimea voted to integrate the region in the Russian Federation, was not annexation but represented the popular will.

[6], July 5, 2016.

[7], July 5, 2016.

[8], July 7, 2016.

[9], July 1, 2016.

[10], July 5, 2016.

[11], July 5, 2016.

[12], July 5, 2016.

[13], July 6, 2016.

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