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Sun, 29 March 2020

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Jeremy Hunt urges EU to match US sanctions on 'malign' Russia after Salisbury attack

Jeremy Hunt urges EU to match US sanctions on 'malign' Russia after Salisbury attack

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Jeremy Hunt has today urged the EU to match US sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

In a speech in Washington, the new Foreign Secretary called on the bloc to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Donald Trump over the attack, which left one dead and three others fighting for their lives. 

He also urged democracies to protect their electoral systems against meddling from malign actors - amid accusations Moscow tried to influence the 2016 US presidential race.

And he reiterated warnings that a "messy" no-deal Brexit would be a "geostrategic error" and leave the EU vulnerable to international threats. 

Mr Hunt's three-day visit to the US comes as Washington prepares to pile further pressure on Moscow in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. 

The state department is expected to ban defence exports and government financial assistance to Russia after it agreed with the UK that Moscow was behind the attack.

Mr Hunt declared that "aggressive and malign behaviour" from Russia "undermines the international order that keeps us safe".

"Of course we must engage with Moscow, but we must also be blunt: Russia’s foreign policy under President Putin has made the world a more dangerous place," he argued.

“And today the United Kingdom asks its allies to go further by calling on the European Union to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US.

"That means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea.”

The Foreign Office refused to give further details on what Mr Hunt was calling for - but noted that he was not laying out a specific policy proposal.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet minister blasted “foreign attempts to manipulate elections” - a touchy subject for the Trump administration as it copes with claims of Russian state meddling in the 2016 presidential vote.

And urged nations to make clear there will “always be a serious price to pay if red lines are crossed - whether territorial incursions, the use of banned weapons or, increasingly, cyber attacks”.

However, he noted that democratic states must also “get our own house in order” and strengthen by addressing the ills their peoples are unhappy about.

“We are putting our heads in the sand if we blame social media by pretending that some of the causes of that resentment are not real,” he said.

“Whether caused by the decline in real incomes for many Americans and Europeans, dislocation caused by changes in technology or the identity concerns of many voters caused by immigration.”


Elsewhere, Mr Hunt stepped up his warnings to the bloc against crashing out of the EU without a Brexit deal.

 “One of the biggest threats to European unity would be a chaotic no-deal Brexit," he argued.

“Britain would, of course, find a way to prosper and we have faced many greater challenges in our history.

“But the risk of a messy divorce, as opposed to the friendship we seek, would be a fissure in relations between European allies that would take a generation to heal - a geostrategic error for Europe at an extremely vulnerable time in our history.”

Mr Hunt will spend two days in Washington before travelling to New York on Thursday to address the United Nations Security Council on efforts to defeat the Islamic State terror group.

He will meet top US figures including secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Jared Kushner - the son-in-law and top aide to US president Donald Trump - and White House chief of Staff John Kelly.


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