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How to manage Russia–UK security relations

The RIAC (Russian International Affairs Council) has published yesterday a conference report prepared in conjunction with the London-based defence and security think tank RUSI (Royal United Services Institute)  that summarises the discussions at two bilateral meetings held in London and Moscow between experts from the UK and Russia.

The meetings sought to explore the security challenges facing the two countries, and to assist policymakers on both sides to identify realistic potential areas of engagement, as well as to confirm areas that are unlikely to produce results. They were organised by Russian International Affairs Council and Royal United Services Institute, and were attended by participants from various UK and Moscow-based institutions.

At the meetings, the participants examined a range of security challenges and made a series of recommendations to improve future UK–Russia security relations.

The report notes that risk reduction and confidence building are seen as ‘a particular challenge’ due to ‘the apparent absence of rules and the ability to effectively signal to each other, which had even existed during the Cold War’.

To counter this, the participants at the meetings recommended further bilateral UK–Russian military engagement, with one UK participant saying ‘it is not a concession to Russia from the West and does not symbolise appeasement’. This could be done through existing forums, such as the NATO–Russia Council or the OSCE, or through a ‘new dedicated bilateral forum’.

Participants also argued that in order to achieve better understanding, future discussions should consider the differences in perspectives between the two countries, with the Russian side arguing that ‘the West had too often framed foreign policy relationships in terms of “values”, whereas Russia does so more in terms of interests’.
Therefore, discussions should ‘focus on the different approaches each side has towards security issues to ensure that options to find solutions or compromise are exhausted before they are dismissed’.

Finally, participants found that while there was often disagreement between both sides, there is still an appetite for dialogue on shared security interests. UK policymakers have signalled that ‘despite the political tensions with Russia, they are open to dialogue and potential cooperation where it could be beneficial to the interests of both sides’, a view shared by a majority of Russia’s political community.

To this end, the attendees recommended that further discussions should be held in focused working groups involving more government and practitioners participation. In light of the Brexit process that will be triggered today by the United Kingdom Government, a better cooperation between the country and Russia can be beneficial for both as the reports

The report published by RIAC yesterday provides an alternative view from the recent report on the Russia-UK Relations published by the UK Parliament.

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