Even broken clocks give the right time twice a day. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called on the United Kingdom to cooperate with Russia to combat terrorism. Blair said there will always be “strong disagreements” with the Kremlin, but the relationship is needed.
Speaking at Chatham House in London on Wednesday, Blair said that while tension between the UK and Russia could continue, the need for a united front against terrorism is crucial.
“In the Middle East, in the fight against terrorism, yes, we will have to ally ourselves with Russia, but that does not mean that we are not prepared to have strong disagreements with them when they are doing things that we do not agree with,” Blair said.
“That is why we will always have disagreements with Russia, which will be very ugly and difficult from time to time, but we will always be willing to deal with them at one point – and that is why we need to be careful, as we approach the relationship,” he added.
The relationship between the UK and Russia has deteriorated in recent months following the attempted murder of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March. The Kremlin vehemently denied any involvement in attempting to end the Skripal’s lives, but the United Kingdom blamed Russia and expelled 23 of its diplomats in retaliation for the alleged poisoning.
The United Kingdom and its allies opposes Russia in the Syrian conflict. Russia has been helping its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in fighting jihadist groups.
Since 2011, Syria has witnessed the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups aligned with al-Qaeda, raising fears that Syria could become a base for jihadist groups. Moscow intervened in the conflict in September 2015, and Russian air strikes have since been crucial in preventing the overthrow of Assad’s government.
The UN estimates that 400,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian War.
This is not the first time Blair has emphasized the need for the West to work with Russia to deter terrorist groups. In April 2014 he said that the threat of “radical Islam” was such that “on this issue, whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and cooperate with the East, in particular Russia and China”.
Blair has already led the UK in Middle East conflicts to participate in the “War on Terror”, joining the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan under US President George W. Bush in response to the September 11 terrorist attack. Blair has consistently defended his decision to invade Afghanistan, stating in 2015: “I think it always seemed right and fair that we were there in Afghanistan, both struggling to remove the Taliban and stabilize the country.”