Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Second Report


Conclusions and recommendations



Context

1.  We are concerned that the potential significance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's development is not fully understood or appreciated by the FCO. We ask that in its reply to this Report the Government give a full assessment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's impact to date, its potential growth in membership (particularly in relation to Iran, which now enjoys observer status), and its potential for development in the commercial, economic and security spheres. (Paragraph 19)

2.  We are concerned about the reduction in the number of international observers whom Russia is inviting to the December 2007 Duma elections. (Paragraph 31)

3.  We conclude that, driven partly by changes in Russia's economic position, and partly by the cumulative effects of the country's post-Cold War relations with the West, the results of Russia's recent rethinking of its international role are likely to endure beyond the presidential election scheduled for March 2008. In the period before the presidential election, the UK should be especially realistic not to expect movement from Russia on areas of difference with the West. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government set out what consideration it has given to the likely impact of Russia's forthcoming election season on Russia's foreign policy, and how it considers the UK might respond. (Paragraph 34)

4.  We conclude that it could benefit bilateral relations, as well as a greater UK appreciation of Russia's new foreign policy, if the UK were explicitly to welcome and engage with Russia's foreign policy review document. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government set out what work is under way in response to the shift in Russia's foreign policy, and specifically in response to the Russian foreign policy review document. We further recommend that the UK should consider sponsoring a conference, to discuss and explore the Russian and UK analyses of the international environment and foreign policy responses. (Paragraph 39)

Democracy and human rights

5.  Developments in Russia overall contrast with the UK's declared goal of promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law there. We recommend that the UK continue to press its concerns about democratic and human rights standards with the Russian authorities, including in public, ensuring that public and private messages are the same. However, we recommend that the Government make some changes to the terms in which it does so, in order to improve the likely effectiveness of its message. We recommend that the Government stress to a greater extent that the political and human rights standards at issue are often not Western, but international, and that they are not foreign impositions but commitments to which Russia has voluntarily signed up, including under the Helsinki Final Act. We further recommend that the Government couch its wish to see improved democratic and human rights standards in Russia primarily in terms of interests rather than values—specifically, Russia's interest in being taken seriously as an international actor which respects its international commitments, and the UK's interest in the development of a credible international partner likely to generate fewer security risks. We further recommend that the Government be prepared seriously and publicly to address the charges of human rights shortcomings which Russia is likely to make against it in the course of further engagement on human rights issues. (Paragraph 70)

6.  We conclude that mutual discussions—such as those underway between the UK and Russia on racially-motivated violence—are to be welcomed, as potentially a more fruitful approach to human rights issues than a one-way dialogue. We recommend that this approach be extended to a discussion of the protection of human rights in the context of combating terrorism. (Paragraph 71)

7.  We recommend that the Government continue to implement programme and project work in Russia, with NGOs and other groups, in the interests of democracy and human rights promotion. We recommend that the FCO seek new opportunities in particular to work with professional groups. We further recommend that the FCO take care to ensure that no well-functioning DFID projects that address the UK's priorities in Russia come to an end as a result of the closure of DFID's Russian programmes. (Paragraph 74)

8.  We conclude that the FCO is correct to identify the North Caucasus as a region of serious human rights and security concerns. There is potential for a violent anti-Russian insurgency across the region which could have security implications beyond it. We recommend that the FCO continue to fund work in the region aimed at ending impunity, improving human rights and governance standards and encouraging inter-ethnic understanding, and that it updates us on its projects in the region in its response to this Report. We further recommend that the FCO continue to impress on Russia the importance of meeting its human rights obligations in the region. (Paragraph 85)

9.  We urge the Government to do all it can to secure Russian ratification of Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible. We recommend that the Government impress on Moscow that the UK will regard its cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights as a key indicator of Russia's willingness to work as a responsible member of the international community. (Paragraph 91)

Bilateral UK-Russia relationship

10.  We conclude that the UK's relationship with Russia has been impacted negatively by London's stance vis-à-vis Washington. We recommend that the Government should seek to improve its relations with Russia without damaging its relations with the US. (Paragraph 96)

11.  We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should volunteer more information surrounding the apprehension and deportation from the UK in June 2007 of the Russian individual suspected of planning Mr Berezovsky's murder. (Paragraph 104)

12.  Although we regret the difficulties that contested asylum and extradition decisions are causing in the bilateral relationship, we support the Government's insistence on the independence of the legal process regarding Russian extradition requests to the UK. We recommend that the Government continue to offer assistance to Russia in the preparation of extradition requests to the UK and in the development of the country's judicial system in accordance with principles of independence and professionalism. (Paragraph 108)

13.  The deadlock surrounding bilateral extradition issues is conducive neither to improving the UK-Russia bilateral relationship nor to advancing the interests of justice in either Russia or the UK. We recommend that the Government invites its Russian counterpart to renegotiate extradition arrangements between Russia and the UK, in an endeavour to satisfy the considerations of courts in both the UK and Russia which are charged with interpreting human rights obligations and Russia's constitution in the light of extradition requests. (Paragraph 109)

14.  We conclude that the Government was correct to send a strong signal regarding Russia's refusal to extradite Andrey Lugovoy. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government detail as far as possible the considerations which led it to take the specific measures announced on 16 July 2007, and the discussions which it has had—if any—with its Russian counterpart about possible ways of working around Russia's constitutional ban on the extradition of its nationals. We further recommend that in its response the Government update us on any practical impact that the UK and Russian measures are having on government-to-government cooperation, on progress in the UK's review of cooperation with Russia, and on its discussions with EU partners on including issues arising from the Litvinenko case in the EU-Russia dialogue. (Paragraph 124)

15.  We agree with the Government that the BBC World Service provides a valuable source of independent news, especially in Russia's current media climate. However, we also conclude that partnerships with state broadcasters could be seen to undermine the BBC's independence. While recognising the difficulties of the current Russian media scene for the BBC, we recommend that the World Service pursue an independent FM broadcasting licence and that it seek to improve and expand its medium wave transmissions, in order to reduce the Service's dependence on FM broadcasting through Russian partners. (Paragraph 131)

16.  We are deeply concerned about the termination of British Council English language teaching in Russia, and the difficult environment that the British Council has faced in Russia in recent years. We recommend the FCO does all it can with its Russian interlocutors to secure conclusion of a new Cultural Centres Agreement as soon as possible. (Paragraph 137)

17.  We recommend that the Government continue to foster people-to-people contacts as a potentially effective way of improving UK-Russia relations and bringing mutual benefits in the longer term. (Paragraph 141)

Energy security

18.  We conclude that Russia is dependent on EU energy markets for a considerable part of its revenue. We further conclude that the diversion of Russian energy supplies away from EU markets eastwards, including to China, is not a realistic prospect in the short or medium term. We recommend that the Government draw on these conclusions to continue to encourage its EU partners to take a robust and united approach to dealing with Moscow, in the energy field and beyond. (Paragraph 162)

19.  We conclude that the prospective shortfall in Russian gas production represents an urgent energy security concern for the EU, and a greater one than the risk of Russia disrupting supplies for political reasons. The intensified competition for Russian gas which appears to be in prospect between Russian domestic consumers, Russian CIS customers, and the EU, has the potential to aggravate a number of political relationships. We welcome the Minister for Europe's apparent awareness of the urgency of the problem. We recommend that the Government work to achieve a common understanding of the likely Russian gas shortfall with both EU partners and Moscow, and that it inform us in its response to this Report of the steps being taken in this regard. (Paragraph 170)

20.  Given the apparent detrimental impact of Russian state control on efficiency and output in the Russian energy sector, we conclude that EU consumers have a direct interest in liberalisation in the sector and in Russia remaining open to meaningful foreign participation in the development of its energy resources. Although large global energy companies are likely to remain interested in the Russian sector under almost any conditions, we recommend that the Government continue to impress on Moscow the mutual benefits that can come from the existence of transparent and stable conditions for foreign investment in the Russian energy sector. (Paragraph 176)

21.  We welcome signs on the part of the EU and its Member States of increasing commitment to energy supply diversification schemes. However, we conclude that Russia and the EU could come to be direct competitors for Central Asian energy resources. Under current circumstances, the EU's aims of achieving supply diversification through independent access to non-Russian Caspian energy resources may also aggravate Russia. We recommend that in continuing to pursue supply diversification, including at the EU level, the Government take full account of the geopolitical sensitivities involved and seek greater integration of sectoral and foreign policy considerations. (Paragraph 184)

22.  We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government inform us of its initial response to the European Commission's latest proposals for the energy sector, its assessment of the likelihood of their acceptance by other EU actors, and its assessment of their likely impact on EU efforts to win greater Russian compliance with international regimes governing the energy sector according to liberal and transparent principles. We further recommend that the Government continue to impress on its EU partners the way in which bilateral dealings with Russia in the energy sector can undermine the EU's declared common interest in encouraging Russian compliance with shared international energy regimes. We recommend that the Government therefore continue to encourage its EU partners to act in accordance with a credible common EU energy policy towards Russia. (Paragraph 196)

23.  We conclude that the FCO is correct to have identified the potential for significant improvement in energy efficiency in Russia. We support the FCO's project work in this area, and a strategy of using Russia's interest in enhancing the efficiency of its energy sector as a means of further engaging Russia in the wider climate security agenda. We recommend that the FCO seek opportunities to expand work with Russia in the energy efficiency field, through both bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. (Paragraph 201)

24.  We commend the cross-departmental cooperation which is taking place on energy security matters. We recommend that the Government continue to foster a cross-departmental approach to energy security and that it advocate the benefits of this approach to its EU partners and the EU institutions. (Paragraph 203)

EU-Russia relations

25.  We conclude that the UK is correct to pursue its relations with Russia both bilaterally and through the EU. Where the EU pursues policies towards Russia which are in line with UK goals, the UK position is strengthened. In this context, we commend the Government for having secured EU Presidency statements in support of the UK position on the Litvinenko case. However, the EU is too often divided with respect to Russia, weakening its capacity to engage effectively. We conclude that there are fundamental difficulties in the EU-Russia relationship and we are not confident that these can be addressed effectively until the EU has a common stance towards Russia. We therefore recommend that the Government make the development of a united and coherent EU Russia policy an explicit goal of its work in the EU in 2008. We further recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government outline the steps it proposes to take towards this goal. (Paragraph 223)

26.  The imposition for over a year of trade blockages on two EU Member States by a third country is unacceptable. We recommend that the Government impress on the European Commission and Moscow the urgency of resolving Russia's trade disputes with Poland and Lithuania. Even if Poland were to lift its veto on negotiations with Russia on a new EU-Russia agreement, however, we conclude that the launch of such negotiations in the near future would be probably fruitless and possibly unhelpful. We recommend that the Government revisit the question of the advisability of a new EU-Russia agreement as part of its discussions with EU partners on EU Russia policy, and that it report on initial discussions in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 236)

27.  We conclude that the Government is correct to support the EU's European Neighbourhood Policy. We also strongly endorse the FCO's identification of a need to develop a shared understanding with Russia of the future of the common neighbourhood, involving the countries concerned and on the basis of their sovereign choices. However, the evidence is that this goal remains distant. We recommend that the Government seek to inject greater strategic awareness into the EU's policies for the former Soviet space and encourage greater coordination between the EU's policies for Russia and for other former Soviet states. (Paragraph 242)

European security issues

28.  We conclude that, whilst in principle we support the concept of "supervised independence" for Kosovo, we are concerned that the Government may have underestimated the damage to the authority of the Security Council, to bilateral relations with Russia, and to the very fragile democracy in Serbia. (Paragraph 263)

29.  We regret that, eight years after the Kosovo conflict, disagreement over the province may once again cause the UN to be sidelined. We conclude that Russia may be adopting an intransigent position now on the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo in order to demonstrate its strength. It may also be using the issue as a way to encourage divisions within the European Union. However, Moscow would find it much harder to do so had the plan been accepted by Serbia. We conclude that the Government underestimated Russia's likely opposition to the Ahtisaari plan. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government inform us of the steps it is taking to try to win Kosovar Albanian and Serbian acceptance of a modified version of the Ahtisaari plan and to prevent a further outbreak of violence taking place. (Paragraph 264)

30.  We conclude that Russian opposition to US ballistic missile defence (BMD) plans in Central Europe largely reflects Moscow's sensitivity about the presence of NATO infrastructure in its former satellite states. As such, Russian opposition will be hard to overcome. We welcome signs that the US, Russia and the NATO allies may be engaging in a more substantive dialogue and search for cooperation on BMD. As long as it remains committed to the US BMD plans, we recommend that the Government seek ways to build cooperation around them, both within NATO and with Russia, so that they do not become a source of further divisions in Europe. (Paragraph 273)

31.  We regret the manner and timing of the Government's announcement that RAF Menwith Hill is to participate in the US ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, and the resulting lack of Parliamentary debate on the issue. In its response to this Report, we recommend that the Government inform us of the date on which it received the formal proposal from the US to include Menwith Hill in the BMD system. We recommend that there should be a full Parliamentary debate on these proposals. (Paragraph 275)

32.  We are concerned by Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty with effect from mid-December 2007. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government provide us with its assessment of the practical and political impact of Russia's step. We further recommend that the Government update us on the steps it is taking to encourage Russia to fulfil its Istanbul commitments. (Paragraph 285)

33.  We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government provide us with its assessment of the likelihood and possible implications of a renunciation by Russia of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (Paragraph 290)

34.  We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government share with us its assessment of the likelihood of Moscow retargeting its strategic missile forces if the US ballistic missile defence deployment in Europe goes ahead. (Paragraph 295)

35.  We welcome the Government's appreciation of the importance of the NATO-Russia Council. We conclude that the body has the potential to become a much more effective forum for ongoing security consultations between Russia and the West, and we recommend that the Government work with its partners to exploit its full potential. (Paragraph 298)

36.  In the perspective of the country's NATO membership aspirations, we recommend that the Government continue to encourage Georgia to resolve its internal conflicts and to develop more stable relations with Russia. (Paragraph 301)

International security issues

37.  We regard Russia's willingness to export arms to destinations where they are likely to exacerbate conflict and human rights violations as unhelpful to international security. We are concerned about the profound lack of transparency which surrounds Russian arms sales and which heightens international suspicions of Russia's behaviour in this field. Given the scale of Russian production and export, we are of the view that conventional arms control initiatives supported by the UK cannot be fully effective without Russian participation. We recommend that the FCO consider ways in which it could include activities on arms trade transparency in its programme work in Russia. We further recommend that the FCO continue to seek to win Russian support for the Arms Trade Treaty, as a potentially important expression of Russia's desired status as a respected and responsible international power. We also recommend that in its response to this Report the Government update us on progress regarding Russian support for the Arms Trade Treaty following the 2007 UN General Assembly session. (Paragraph 314)

38.  We welcome Russia's participation so far in international anti-proliferation efforts regarding North Korea and Iran, and Russia's willingness to be represented by the EU High Representative in international efforts to encourage Tehran to abandon uranium enrichment. To maximise prospects of winning Russian support for the strengthened sanctions against Iran which it seeks, we recommend that the Government work to bring closer together the Western and Russian assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat. We further recommend that the Government do all it can to encourage Russia to use its leverage over Iran in the interests of the latter's compliance with its nuclear obligations. (Paragraph 328)

39.  We conclude that the UK's Global Partnership programme is making a significant contribution to reducing security risks from WMD materials in Russia. We welcome Russia's growing financial contribution to the programme. We recommend that the Government continue to work, with due regard to legitimate Russian sensitivities, to overcome the lack of transparency that is impeding further progress in some areas. We recommend that the Government explore ways of further enhancing re-employment prospects for Russian nuclear scientists. We further recommend that, in common with its G8 partners, including Russia, the Government start to consider options for the post-2012 period that will allow any remaining Global Partnership work in Russia to continue. (Paragraph 336)

40.  Given our position, stated in our recent Report on the Middle East, that the Government should consider ways of engaging with moderate elements in Hamas, we recommend that the Government explore whether Russia's contacts with Hamas could be a useful channel to pursue. (Paragraph 342)


 
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Prepared 25 November 2007