Today's daily politics briefing

Dominic Raab to call on Nato allies to ‘face down’ threat from Russia

Foreign secretary meeting allied counterparts including US’s Antony Blinken in Brussels

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
@andywoodcock
Wednesday 24 March 2021 10:17
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Dominic Raab will today issue a call to Nato to “face down” the threat from Russia and ensure that Moscow experiences real-world consequences for hostile activity.

At the first in-person meeting of Nato foreign ministers in a year, the foreign secretary will reassert the UK’s “unwavering” support for the transatlantic military alliance as the bedrock of western security following Brexit.

He will warn that Russia is deploying new and disruptive technology to threaten democracies and open societies around the world, and will say that the UK fully backs Nato as a military deterrent and a “strong, united, political bulwark against Moscow’s destabilising activities”.

And he will say that this includes Russia’s development of new, cutting-edge missile systems built to evade conventional defences, as well as state-backed cyber-attacks that target sensitive data, try to interfere in elections, or spread disinformation about coronavirus.

The meeting in Brussels comes at a moment of heightened tension between Russia and the west, following the Kremlin’s furious response to new US president Joe Biden’s description of Vladimir Putin as “a killer”.

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Russia is steeled for a new round of US sanctions over Biden’s claims that it meddled in the presidential election, and on Tuesday won China’s support for its call for a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council to deal with the turbulence caused by what it claims is “destructive” American behaviour.

Attending his first Nato summit as US secretary of state, Antony Blinken on Tuesday publicly affirmed the “steadfast commitment” of the US to the military alliance, following four years of friction under the presidency of Donald Trump.

Last week’s integrated review, setting out the defence, security and diplomatic agenda of Boris Johnson’s administration for the coming decade, identified Russia as “the most acute threat to our security”, citing the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury as well as interference in Ukraine.

It warned that Moscow could be expected to step up its activities aimed at undermining democratic systems and open economies in the wider European neighbourhood in the coming years.

The review stated: “The UK respects the people, culture and history of Russia. However, until relations with its government improve, we will actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia. 

“Through Nato, we will ensure a united western response, combining our military, diplomatic and intelligence assets in support of collective security. We will uphold international rules and norms and hold Russia to account for breaches of these, working with our international partners, as we did after the Salisbury attack. 

“We will also support others in the eastern European neighbourhood and beyond to build their resilience to state threats. This includes Ukraine, where we will continue to build the capacity of its armed forces.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of foreign ministers, Mr Raab said: “This is an important opportunity for Nato allies to gather together and discuss the value of our alliance in a world where democracies are under threat from authoritarian powers and non-state actors who use cyber threats and malicious new technology to sabotage the rules-based order.

“The UK, as a leading defence and diplomatic power, fully backs Nato as a strong military deterrent to the threats from Russia but also as a strong, united, political bulwark against Moscow’s destabilising activities.”

Mr Raab will voice UK support for Nato’s open-door policy which offers a route to membership of the alliance, including for countries facing Russian aggression such as Ukraine and Georgia. 

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “The foreign secretary cannot lecture Nato allies about taking the threat of Russia seriously while he is failing to safeguard our security at home. 

“Eighteen months after its publication, not one of the 21 recommendations in the Russia Report has been actioned, leaving our democracy under attack and our defences down at home. 

“Last week the government’s own review identified Russia as the ‘most acute direct threat’ to Britain’s national security, but further cuts to our armed forces will leave us with fewer troops, fewer aircraft and the smallest army for 300 years. 

“When former generals are sounding the alarm that cuts could weaken our defences against Russia and undermine our partnership with the US and Nato, the government should stop lecturing our allies and start to show real leadership.”

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