Donald Trump is a ‘realist’ on Russia, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says

Sir Michael Fallon backed the US president's stance

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US president Donald Trump is pursuing a “realist” policy when it comes to relations with Russia, Britain’s Defence Secretary has said.

Sir Michael Fallon said Mr Trump was “right” to engage with Russia and that the UK needed to do so as well.

He made the comments in a speech at St Andrew’s University on Thursday. His comments come days after Theresa May told US Republicans in a visit that it was important to “engage but beware” with the country.

Since Mr Trump’s election the British government has struck a more conciliatory public tone over Russia. The end of David Cameron’s administration was marked by condemnation of alleged atrocities by the country’s forces in Syria.

On President Trump's approach to Vladimir Putin, Sir Michael said: “President Trump has spoken about the need for engagement with Russia. He's right.

“Great nations like the US and Russia will talk. Indeed, they must talk to preserve the rules-based information system underpinning our security and prosperity. The UK too needs to engage with Russia, including military to military.

“Yet President Trump is a realist. He knows engagement is an equation of risk versus reward, with the outcome decided by a nation's deeds, not its words.”

During the US presidential election Sir Michael refused to condemn Mr Trump's comments about groping women, suggesting that to do so would be to intervene in a foreign election. This was in marked contrast to other British cabinet ministers, who did condemn them.

Sir Michael however also warned that Russia had been “weaponising information” to destabilise the West. Russia has been accused by US authorities of intervening in the US presidential election on the side of Mr Trump.

He accused the Russian state of "routinely lying" and engaging in a ”persistent pattern of behaviour”.

Michael Fallon speaking in the House of Commons (PA)

“Today we see a country that in weaponising misinformation has created what we might now see as the post-truth age. Part of that is the use of cyber-weaponry to disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery,” he said in the speech.

“Russia is clearly testing NATO and the West. It is seeking to expand its sphere of influence, destabilise countries and weaken the alliance.

“It is undermining national security for many allies and the international rules-based system.

“Therefore it is in our interest and Europe's to keep NATO strong and to deter and dissuade Russia from this course.”