Trump-Putin axis means UK and EU need to hang together

by Hugo Dixon | 11.01.2017

Whatever the truth of the allegations about Donald Trump’s relationship to Vladimir Putin, we know that the US president-elect is sceptical about NATO and too friendly to the Russian president. This has geopolitical risks for the whole of Europe – and makes it all the more important that Britain and the rest of the EU find ways of working closely together on foreign and security policy.

The latest unconfirmed allegations are that Russia has compromising personal and financial information about Trump – including enough to blackmail him if it wishes to. Both Trump and Russia have denied the claims.

The allegations are contained in a dossier prepared by a former MI6 agent for Trump’s political rivals in the US and published yesterday by Buzzfeed. CNN reports that senior US intelligence chiefs presented a synopsis of the dossier to Trump last week and that US intelligence officials considered past work by the former MI6 agent credible, though they have not verified the latest claims.

These allegations follow on from a separate report on Putin’s attempt to influence the recent American presidential election, produced by the US intelligence community, an unclassified version of which was published last week.

The report concluded that “Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

This report also said it thought Moscow would apply lessons learned from its involvement in the US election “to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”

This report has also been denied by Russia – while Trump took until today to say he thought the Kremlin was behind hacking ahead of the election.

Even if the latest allegations are the “fake news” that Trump claims, the US president-elect is clearly friendly to Putin. This matters to Europe because the Russian president is a danger to our neighbourhood. He has annexed Crimea, destabilised Ukraine and helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad win his civil war.

The Kremlin gives every impression of being pro-Brexit and wishing to play divide and rule with Europe’s nations. It seems to want to re-establish a zone of influence on its Western border.

The transatlantic alliance has been the bedrock of our security since World War Two. The combination of a Trump presidency and an aggressive Russia may make this less solid.

In the circumstances, Britain and the EU need to work closely together in foreign and security policy, as a recent paper from RUSI, the defence thinktank argues.The problem is that Brexit will make this harder.

However, as Germany’s Angela Merkel is fond of saying: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Forging such a special relationship should be one of our top priorities at the outset of the Brexit talks. If we can all see how much we need each other geopolitically, we may even find the thorny trade issues easier to resolve.

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    This column was updated after Trump said on Jan. 11 that he thought Russia was behind hacking ahead of the election

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    3 Responses to “Trump-Putin axis means UK and EU need to hang together”

    • pardon my scepticism, but it looks very much like that the current crops of british politicians (I don’t limit it to the Tories) can’t seem to see beyond their shores (if not constituencies) when it comes to the national interest and geopolitical strategies.
      they need a clear and present gun to their head to even start considering there might be a need for such thoughts.
      none personify this so much than disgraced former defense secretary Liam Fox (who is always fond to sing USA whatever the topic) and current holder Michael Fallon who is intend on sabotaging any piecemeal attempt at European independent defense policy (and in process helping to further unite EU-27 members against the UK)

      best regards

      • A good comment from a reader. Today, when all above is happening the FCO was feeding the media with a press release on Boris Jojnson’s trip to Slovenia to seal bi-lateral relations with a great, but also among the smallest countries in EU. When asked ‘ what about UK’s relations with the rest of Europe’, the answer was ‘it is well recorded’. Not a mention on UK’s reaction to Trump’ show today, while RUSI has long understated that the biggest security threat to the UK is distancing itself from the EU’s common security policy and potentially Brexit.

    • ^Like Starbuck says!!

      The Guardian points out in “British parliament’s intelligence watchdog to scrutinise Trump dossier”, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/12/parliaments-intelligence-watchdog-to-scrutinise-trump-dossier,
      that the government has refused to take action ( “… , especially given No 10’s refusal to comment on the document.”) against Russian hacking or verifying if the ‘Trump documents’ hold any truth.

      My conclusion: Mrs May will side with Trump on most accounts, or at least will make it easy for him.