Event summary: UK’s Policy Toward Russia After the General Election


The following is a summary of an event with Michael Tatham, Sir Andrew Wood, and Dr Andrew Foxall, chaired by Damian Collins MP, on 9th of June, 2015; it reflects the views expressed by the speakers and not by The Henry Jackson Society or its staff.

For a transcript of the event, click here

On 9th of June Michael Tatham of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Europe Directorate, Sir Andrew Wood of Chatham House, and Dr Andrew Foxall of The Henry Jackson Society gave their thoughts on what the new UK government’s policy toward Russia ought to be, in the House of Commons. Each panellist presented provided background of the past and present state of relations, before offering outlining what they believed the UK’s policy could, and should, be going forward. The speakers agreed that although the UK should attempt to work constructively with Russia in limited areas of shared interest, there should not be a normalisation of relations until Russia has ceased to engage in aggressive and illegal activity against its neighbours.

Imparting Costs for Past Actions

  • Russia must be made aware that its aggression against Ukraine bears significant costs, and that relations will not be ‘reset’ as they were after the 2008 war with Georgia.
  • Sir Andrew and Dr Foxall believe that the sanctions should be maintained as long as Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, while Michael Tatham argued that sanctions are an essential bargaining chip that can reinforce future negotiations.
  • Dr Foxall suggested that a UK ‘Magnitsky Law’ ought to be adopted in order to restrict access to the UK for individuals guilty of human-rights abuses in Russia.

Deterrence Against Future Action

  • All three panellists agreed that the government of Ukraine must be supported in order to protect itself from aggression by Russian-backed separatists and push forward with its pro-Western reform programmes.
  • Stricter sanctions can be a highly effective deterrent, but only if the EU member states are united in terms of implementation and duration.
  • Assurances must be given to other states on the periphery of the Russia, particularly NATO and EU members and partners.
  • The UK and her allies must improve their ability to combat Russian propaganda, particularly in states with Russian-speaking populations
  • European states should reduce their dependence on Russia energy supplies.

Potential for Future Engagement

  • The UK should be willing to engage with Russia providing Russia is willing to act constructively and in good faith. However, it does not appear likely that such conditions will be met under the current administration
  • The UK should continue to engage with and support civil society groups within Russia in order to preserve political space for reformists, providing that that connection does not make these groups more vulnerable to government repression
  • The UK should continue to cooperate with Russia in isolated areas of shared interest, including counter-terrorism, the situation in Syria, and Iran.



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