Blair argues Putin deserves to sit at ‘top table’

Tony Blair has sought to encourage Vladimir Putin to adopt Western values ​​in the belief that the new Russian president is essentially a “patriotic Russian” who deserves a seat at the international “high table”, according to New official records are published.

This was despite the serious reservations that senior British civil servants expressed at the time about whether the former KGB intelligence officer could be trusted.

The articles, released this week for the National Archives in Kew, show the prime minister’s efforts to attract Putin during the early days of his presidency as Russia’s war in Chechnya raged, and persuaded Western allies to do the same.

A February 2001 memo, recounting a meeting between the then British prime minister and US vice-president Dick Cheney, records Blair describing Putin as a “patriotic Russian” with a “similar mindset” to Former French President Charles de Gaulle.

“He [Blair] understand that Putin has a low approval rating in the US. But he thinks it is better to let Putin have a top position and encourage Putin to approach Western attitudes and Western economic models,” the note read.

It added that Blair, who advises on US missile defense plans, thinks “probably will get the best response from Putin by treating him with respect in in preventing him from engaging the European members of the Union. [Nato] distant alliance of the United States”.

The documents also show that in preparation for Putin’s state visit in 2003, Downing Street considered Russian proposals for a gas pipeline supplying the Netherlands, Sweden and the Netherlands. United Kingdom through Belarus.

Putin told Blair that this “would be a big undertaking but would ensure a steady supply for decades to come”, according to reports of a 2001 meeting between the two men in Moscow.

Behind-the-scenes officials are concerned that the Russian president has carried the baggage of the cold war with him and is not honoring many of the commitments he made to the British prime minister at international summits.

A 2001 Downing Street summary note titled “Putin’s Progress” said that despite the “warmth in Putin’s rhetoric about close ties” between the two countries, there was a resurgence. in Russian espionage against Great Britain.

“The Russian intelligence presence in the UK is at a cold war level, and they continue to try to send aggressive and hostile officers to work against British interests around the world,” it reads. .

The document lists a series of false guarantees made by Putin to Blair, including that Moscow would stop supplying Iran’s nuclear program and would support a hard-line Western approach in dealing with Iran’s nuclear crisis. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Putin told the prime minister that he did not want to be seen as “anti-NATO” and “will not try to slow NATO’s expansion”.

However, Russian officials in general are taking an “obstructive stance”, and Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev has warned the alliance that further expansion would be “a major political mistake”.

Silvio Berlusconi matches Blair’s initial enthusiasm for the Russian president, according to the British account of the 2002 NATO meeting in Rome. At the meeting, the Italian prime minister suggested that the Nato leaders should “authorize Putin to speak on their behalf” to the leaders of India and Pakistan at the upcoming meeting in Kazakhstan and as part of a national effort to to prevent the two nuclear powers from clashing.

Condoleezza Rice, then US secretary of state, described it as a “terrible idea”.


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