Johnson-Putin Summit Possible If Russia Ends “Malicious Activities”, Defense Secretary Says | World news
A summit between Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin may be possible if the Russian president ceases his “malicious activities” against the UK and its allies, the defense secretary said.
Ben Wallace said it was important to offer a “way out, a way for improvement” and called a historic meeting between Mr. Putin and american president Joe biden this week a “really welcome start”.
But the top minister told Sky News that Western powers will judge Moscow on what it does next before any warming of relations, which were brought to a post-Cold War low by the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the Salisbury spy poisonings.
Asked if he thinks the Kremlin wants relations with the UK to improve, the Defense Secretary replied: “I hope so. But we will judge them by their actions. Diplomacy. is only valuable if the actions that follow really make a difference. “
He said he remained concerned about an incident last month when the Russian-backed Belarusian regime forced a civilian airliner to land and grabbed a reporter on board.
Mr. Wallace, who spoke on a two-day trip to Serbia this week, the first by a British Defense Secretary, also highlighted the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“We are unfortunately still seeing malicious activity. But I think we will judge President Putin by his actions,” he said.
As to whether there was any chance of a UK-Russia summit, Wallace said it was a possibility if the Russian president showed positive signs of change.
“Boris Johnson is clearly open to anyone when there is an important step to be taken and a step towards the normalization of relations with Russia will obviously come and we hope so, but this comes as a result of certain actions “, a- he declared.
“Crimea is still illegally occupied in Ukraine and there are still things to be worked out.”
Pressed again to find out whether he hoped such a summit could take place, the defense secretary said: “I don’t want permanent friction between Russia and the West. belongs to nobody.
“It is not in the interest of the Russian people, it is not in the interest of the Russian economy, nor is it in the interest of my people and my constituents.
“Listen, nobody wants conflict. Nobody wants friction but it’s not free, you have to lift it based on behavior.”
He said the Kremlin must recognize and respect “the sovereignty of others and the rule of international law” before any improvement in relations, such as the lifting of sanctions, can take place.
“But we still have to offer people a way out, a way for improvement and I think the bilateral between President Biden and President Putin is a really welcome start“added Wallace, referring to the Geneva summit on Wednesday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a multinational military exercise at a base in southern Serbia, about 10 kilometers from the border with Kosovo.
The troops, equipped with armored vehicles, a helicopter and a small drone, trained to react to a terrorist attack on a convoy and to deal with rioting civilians, as Mr. Wallace of the Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and other officials.
With 70 British troops involved, the UK was the largest foreign contributor to the exercise – dubbed “Platinum Wolf” – which takes place over two weeks and, along with Serbian forces, includes troops from eight other nations, such as France and the United States.
Mr Wallace’s visit is a testament to the UK’s desire to strengthen ties with a country it bombed as part of a NATO mission during the Kosovo war more than 20 years ago, but with which he fought before in both world wars.
“The Balkans are important for the security of Europe,” said Wallace. “It always mattered. That’s why 80 years ago we stood side by side on the hills to repel the Nazis. This importance, this geographic importance, this strategic importance still matters today. “
Highlighting the challenges in this region, as British troops train with the Serbian army, Serbian forces conduct an exercise with their Russian and Belarusian counterparts in Russia.
When asked which forces Serbia prefers to train with – British or Russian – the Serbian Defense Minister told Sky News: “We are militarily neutral, so we don’t have to prefer training with one or the other, we can choose both and that is our advantage.
He added: “We get the best from the East and the West in terms of training capabilities, learning tactics… As a militarily neutral country, we want to work with everyone to make our army as professional as possible.