Lavrov in London

The Economist

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is visiting London this week, amid some talk of a “reset” in British relations with Russia. They have been in the deep freeze (or at least the cool box) since the murder in London in 2006 of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian emigre who had become a British citizen. The investigation is still open and many in British officialdom are convinced that the murder came about with the active help of Russia’s FSB. Others think it is time to move on: if BP, Britain’s largest company, can snuggle up to Rosneft, Russia’s best-connected one, why can’t politicians be cordial and constructive too.

James Sherr of Chatham House has written a punchy briefing paper on Anglo-Russian relations. He notes
“To many inside Russia, Britain is cast in a hypocritical, even devious light. It is not Russia, it is argued, but the UK that has halted anti-terrorist cooperation thanks to the Alexander Litvinenko affair; the UK has given asylum to 30 individuals who Russia wanted extradited for terrorism and organised crime; the UK-hosted Nordic-Baltic summit is not about ‘economic growth, enterprise and job creation’, but another anti-Russian project.”

But also that
“Britain’s influence is shrinking, not growing. The Deepwater Horizon and Lockerbie affairs have damaged the special relationship with the US. The UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review has gutted the capabilities that monitor Russia’s expanding naval and air activity in Britain’s northern waters. And, the savaging of the BBC Russian and Ukrainian services has further diminished Britain’s profile. Russians are acutely aware of their economic deficiencies relative to the UK. But they are increasingly less impressed by the UK’s ability to convert economic strength into political influence.”

The visit may be aimed at smoothing a trip to Moscow by David Cameron later this year. If that improved the deplorable rudeness and delays faced by ordinary Russians trying to get visas to come to the UK, that would be good news. But it is easy to see a trap too.

New prime ministers often think that their charm and personality can repair relations with Russia. Tony Blair and George Bush both tried charming Vladimir Putin, but came to regret it.

The big point is that if BP wants to do a deal with with Rosneft, knowing that it consists of assets around which swirl a great deal of what might be politely call murk, controversy and questionability, it can do so at its own peril. But British foreign policy towards Russia must not be guided or held hostage by such deals.

BP may well have proven Mr Putin right about the cynicism (and amnesia) of foreign businessess. But he should be at least proven wrong about the alignment of the British state policy and BP’s corporate interests. Britain should take the lead in introducing visa bans for those who perpetrated the torture-killing of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and for those who benefited from the fraud that he uncovered. It should also impose similar restrictions for those who were involved in the second, farcical, trial of the jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Drawing clear distinction between private business interests and public interests is important, and particularly so after the BP-Rosneft deal. buy over the counter medicines займ онлайн на карту без отказа https://www.zp-pdl.com https://www.zp-pdl.com займ на карту

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