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The Guardian: Spy row tremors can make world even more unstable

Crucial agreements the fallout puts at risk

Julian Borger and Terry Macalister
Wednesday July 18, 2007

The tremors from the Anglo-Russian spy row could disrupt a wide range of delicately balanced global issues, and if the crisis escalates, they have the potential to make the world even more unstable.

David Miliband told parliament that Russia is a key partner for the UK on issues such as climate change, Kosovo, Iran, Middle East peace and Sudan. He spoke of Russia’s role in the battles against terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal migration, drugs and international crime. The list emphasised the depth of the relationship, but also underlined how much is now at stake.

Climate change
Britain has counted Russia as an important ally in the debate. It is an important player, accounting for 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. When Russia ratified the Kyoto protocol in October 2004, it was a pivotal moment in the global warming struggle, as it meant the accord had sufficient backing to enter into force. President Vladimir Putin’s personal intervention, at Tony Blair’s pleading, proved decisive. As time runs out to agree a successor to Kyoto, President Putin’s attitude will again be crucial.

The Serbian province is once again a powder keg. A UN-commissioned report has recommended it be given EU-supervised independence, but Russia is blocking security council approval. The longer the diplomatic limbo continues, the higher the chances of fresh fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

Russia has an equally decisive voice over Iran. It has been Tehran’s principal protector in security council debates over its nuclear programme, and has fought a rearguard action against sanctions. Russia’s decision to suspend work on Iran’s Bushehr reactor appeared to shake Tehran’s determination, and may have contributed to a recent improvement in its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Russia’s role could be critical if US military confrontation with Iran is to be averted.

Middle East peace
Russia is a member of the Quartet of world powers overseeing an attempt to salvage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Moscow is therefore one of Mr Blair’s four new employers. The issue is not a Russian priority, but if Moscow wants to make its weight felt, it can make Mr Blair’s job difficult.

Russia has tended to side with China on the security council in protecting the Sudanese government over Darfur. If Khartoum reneges on its latest agreement to allow a UN and African Union peacekeeping force to protect civilians and allow in humanitarian aid, Russia’s vote on any punitive sanctions would prove important.

Terrorism and nuclear proliferation
Proliferation experts believe the easiest way for terrorists to get hold of fissile material to make a nuclear or radiological (“dirty”) bomb would be to buy plutonium or highly enriched uranium smuggled from Russia’s huge stockpile. Improving safeguards depends on Russia’s cooperation.

Trade volumes between Britain and Russia have trebled over the last five years, with UK companies investing more than $5.5bn during 2006. Gas is one of the key exports that Russia brings to the UK, with its state-owned Gazprom actively selling energy here.

The City
London has become the financial centre of choice for Russian companies. A range of energy, steel and telecom firms have listed their shares there, worth a total of £7.5bn in 2006. There has been no shortage of western investors wanting to buy into them.

UK companies
British companies have been having a mixed time. Shell has been forced to hand over part of its huge Sakhalin gas project to Gazprom, while BP has been encouraged to let the Kremlin win control of the Kovykta scheme. Marks & Spencer has opened franchises to cater for a growing middle class. Aston Martin has opened a Russian dealership.,,2128847,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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