The other day, columnist Mary Dejevsky with the British Spectator magazine wrote that the Geneva meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden put weighty points before the British government and gave rise to concern. "How comfortable will British security and intelligence officials feel, if the United States begins to discuss cyber security issues with Russia – perhaps even 'over their heads?'," Dejevsky wonders.
Indeed, 10 Downing Street is seriously concerned that Washington has been increasingly ignoring London in the international arena ever since Biden took the presidential chair in January 2020. The examples include, let's say, the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan without consulting its European allies, including the United Kingdom, or the recent US-EU summit. By the way, London left the union voluntarily, and now, be it noted, it is reaping rewards of this move with plenty to spare.
In case of better relations between the White House and the Kremlin, the United Kingdom may need to reassess its stance towards Russia. However, this process may prove particularly challenging and even painful, given London's tough rhetoric against Moscow. It is no secret after all that it was the United Kingdom that recently gained the upper hand in anti-Russian rhetoric and literally became the world's flagship of anti-Russian prejudice. One cannot rule out in this context that the probable thaw in US-Russian relations will let London fulfill its "Global Britain" ambitions single-handedly. Or perhaps common sense prevails in the British capital, and the UK will also make some cautious fence-mending gestures towards Moscow.
There have already been single moves along this track. Thus, in his June 18 interview with Sky News, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace allowed for a meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin after the US-Russian summit of June 16. Wallace particularly noted that the head of the British government is ready to negotiate normalization. However, he set a condition at the same time that Moscow should alter its line of conduct. Apparently, official London is simply unable to sit down to talk with Russia without any "ifs" and discuss the entire range of problems that have accumulated in bilateral relations.
It's worth mentioning in this regard that Moscow has repeatedly expressed its readiness for an equitable dialogue with Britain, despite the Russian side's numerous complaints against London. On June 17, for instance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a telephone conversation with his British counterpart Dominic Raab and stressed the importance of Britain's refusal from unfounded accusations against Moscow. According to Lavrov, the unsatisfactory state of Russian-British relations is London's sole responsibility. As stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry in its message distributed following the conversation between Lavrov and Raab (initiated by the British side), the UK-practiced selective nature of contacts, which implies those of London's interest alone, is unacceptable in the normal diplomatic practice.
It's worth noting here that earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin also touched upon Russian-British relations. The Russian leader warned MI6 chief Richard Moore against spoiling relations between the two countries. According to Putin, Mr. Moore, who took up this post in October last year, lacks experience. Please note that Putin's statement to this effect was brought about by Moore's interview with the Times Radio, in which he said Russia was reasonably in decline both economically and demographically. "If Russia is a declining power, why should one worry?", Vladimir Putin wondered, advising that London "take it easy" and not worsen Russian-British relations. Pointing to the recent surge in trade between the two countries, he added: "If you do not interfere, everything will be fine."
But Britain won't let go. The June 23 incident involving the British Defender destroyer off Cape Fiolent in the Black Sea is a visual example. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the ship crossed our country's state border and plunged into the territorial waters of the Russian Federation for about 3 km. In response, a Russian border patrol ship fired a warning shot, and the Su-24M fighter bombed the British destroyer's path. Only after that, Defender left the territorial waters of Russia. The Defense Ministry regarded this as a major violation of the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea and urged the British side to investigate the case. Over this Black Sea incident, the British Ambassador will be summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
At the same time, the UK Ministry of Defense does neither want to admit guilt nor consider Defender's actions illegitimate. According to the British side, the HMS Defender "conducted innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law." As we can see, Britain does not even want to admit that their warship has violated the state border of Russia. Moreover, London says the UK does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia.
What did the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom hope for in the Defender incident? Did they really thinks its actions would go unanswered by the Russian side? It is quixotic to believe there are laymen sitting in the British military department who doubt the Russian Armed Forces' ability to repel such a move by a foreign ship. We are apparently dealing with a deliberate provocation aimed to check the combat readiness of our coast guard around the Crimean Peninsula. And the other party did face the music: if the Defender failed to leave Russia's territorial waters after the bombing, it would be simply destroyed by our boundary protection means.
The British destroyer incident seems to have showcased the Russian military's adequate response, and the Crimea residents have nothing to fear, since not a single unfriendly ship will ever enter the country's territorial waters. Moreover, this incident proved a sample evidence that little is changing in the policy of the British government. Even after the seemingly successful recent Russian-American summit in Geneva...