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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Britain Declares Cold War against Russia

The Times of London reports:

Britain’s security services have identified Russia as the third most serious threat facing the country, it has emerged before Gordon Brown’s first meeting with President Medvedev. Security officials say that only al-Qaeda terrorism and Iranian nuclear proliferation are greater menaces to the country’s safety than Russia. The services are understood to fear that Russia’s three main intelligence agencies have flooded the country with agents, The Times understands. There is reported to be deep irritation within the services that vital resources are having to be diverted to deal with industrial and military espionage by the Russians.

The disclosures come as Mr Brown prepares to hold his first meeting with Mr Medvedev on Monday amid rising anger about Russia’s treatment of foreign investors such as BP. Russian agents were accused of the murder of the émigré Alexander Litvinenko in London, as well as other attempted killings, and relations between the two countries have deteriorated fast, culminating in a row between Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin, the former President, at the G8 summit last year. As Mr Brown and Mr Medvedev prepare to meet in Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday before the opening of this year’s G8, Russia has displayed signs of wanting to end the rift with Britain. In an interview with foreign correspondents Mr Medvedev said that international relations always required people to come together.

Reflecting the sensitivity of the encounter, senior British officials declined to give details of the issues that Mr Brown intends to raise, clearly not wanting to raise the temperature in advance. One said: “We will talk about that meeting after it has happened.” He added that the Government agreed with Mr Medvedev’s comments about international relations and that Mr Brown looked forward to a “constructive discussion”. Mr Brown seems certain, however, to raise the continuing fallout from the Litvinenko killing, the heightened tension between the security services, and the treatment of BP and its staff in Russia. The FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, raided the Moscow offices of BP and a joint venture, TNK-BP, this year.

The Prime Minister will use his first G8 summit to call on his colleagues to do more to meet their pledges to double aid to Africa. British officials said that the G8 was not on track to meet commitments made at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 to double aid to £50 billion a year worldwide and aid to Africa to £25 billion. They expect the summit to reaffirm that commitment - although the words are not yet in the summit communiqué - but officials said that several G8 countries were not meeting their targets, and only Britain, the United States and Germany were doing so. Mr Brown will say that the richer countries should be doing more at a time of economic downturn as part of the overall solution to the problems facing the world, including food and oil prices. “Too many donors are not keeping the promises they made,” a senior official said.

Mr Brown wants a G8 commitment to helping countries to increase the number of health workers to 2.3 per 1,000 people and providing $60 billion (£30 billion) for health over a set period. He and other leaders want the summit to give much-needed momentum to the world trade talks, which are close to failure. Appearing before a Commons committee yesterday, Mr Brown spoke of the “great responsibility” on the leaders of the G8 to pave the way for a deal by trade ministers at a crucial meeting on July 21. Mr Brown said: “We are a few minutes before midnight. If we can’t get a trade deal within the next few weeks it may elude us for many, many months, if not longer. “I think we have got to show, in a world that is becoming increasingly protectionist, that we are capable of standing up to that and show that the world is capable of reaching an agreement on trade.”

Mr Brown made plain that his old adversary Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, had his full confidence in his battle with President Sarkozy of France over his handling of the trade talks. Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, said yesterday that an agreement on the main points of the world trade liberalisation talks was “feasible” this month, despite the pessimism surrounding the round and significant reservations on the part of France, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “I called for a ministerial meeting because I think it is feasible [to come to a framework agreement] but it is not a done deal,” he said.

Claims and disputes

November 2006 Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security officer and fierce critic of the Kremlin, dies in a London hospital after being poisoned

May 2007 Russia refuses a British request to hand over the prime suspect in the killing, Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB officer who is now a Russian MP

July 2007 Britain expels four Russian diplomats in response to refusal to extradite Mr Lugovoi

July 2007 Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian billionaire, claims that British intelligence thwarted a plot to kill him

August 2007 President Putin reinstates Cold War-style long-range air patrols by strategic bombers

April 2008 The MoD reveals that RAF fighter jets have been scrambled at least 21 times in 12 months to respond to Russian military aircraft encroaching on Nato airspace

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