A complex range of issues has undermined high level relations between the UK and Russia in recent years, many of which remain unresolved. Four stand out. First, many of the negative elements souring UK-Russian relations have come about because, despite formal declarations and engagement within multilateral fora such as the EU-Russian partnership framework and the G8, there has increasingly been a focus on bilateral elements in the relationship. Second, decreasing unity on the part of ‘the West’ in the early years of the 21st century has encouraged differentiation in Russia’s foreign policy towards western powers and has intensified competition between European powers with regard to good relations with Russia. Despite frequent arguments by some observers that the era of the nation state is gone and the era of globalisation is here, this is far from the case in Putin’s foreign policy and in UK-Russian relations. Third, the personal impact of Prime Minister Tony Blair as a key interlocutor declined since the beginning of the century. When President Putin came to power in 2000, Tony Blair was seen by many as a man of the future as opposed to the other leaders of key western powers who seemed to be on their way out. Six years later, however, Blair was nearing the end of his prime ministership, there were new leaders in Europe, and any role for Prime Minister Blair as a bridge between Russia and the United States was less necessary. Fourth, and related to the above, there are serious “value” differences between the UK and Russia, for example, over the independence of important elements of non-governmental society, such as the judiciary and big business. The importance of the political relationship between Britain and Russia as a whole, has decreased notably in recent years. This will not remain the case for ever, and even as it has occurred, mutual interests and obligations have continued to keep formal contacts and cooperation on many levels positive
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