Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 00:01 UK

Get tough with Russia, MPs urge

Russian troops dismantle a checkpoint near South Ossetia. Photo: 7 October 2008
Russia's conflict with Georgia increased tensions with the west

The UK and other Nato members should take a tougher approach to Russia, the Commons Defence Committee has urged.

The MPs said that while co-operation was needed on many issues, it should not mean "accepting the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence."

The UK should continue to call on Moscow to withdraw its forces from Georgian territory, the report adds.

Ministers were also urged to take a "more robust approach" about Russian incursions into airspace near the UK.

It said the flights were "not the actions of a friendly nation and risk escalating tension".

Sphere of influence

The committee urged the government to take a "hard-headed" approach to Moscow, based on the reality of Russian foreign policy.

It said that while Russia did not pose a direct threat to British security in the near future, it is understandable why some Nato members closer to Russia's borders might be worried - especially in the light of Russia's military action in Georgia last year.

It also calls on Nato to provide reassurance to states that feel threatened through robust contingency planning.

"However desirable co-operation with Russia may be, it should not come at the price of accepting the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence," it says.

Although the MPs welcomed the resumption of dialogue between Nato and Russia, they said the alliance must discuss areas not just of co-operation but also of disagreement, including Russia's claim to a sphere of influence in former Soviet states.

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