Newly released archival documents in the UK show that former prime minister Tony Blair, despite the skepticism of the authorities, argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be placed at the “highest table in the world”.
According to recent documents released by the UK’s National Archives, Blair believed in early 2001 that it was important to encourage Putin to adopt Western values.
Meanwhile, authorities questioned the former KGB agent’s credibility.
It is also seen in the documents that Putin proposed to build a pipeline to England.
In early 2001, Blair explained his approach to Putin to then-US Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that it would encourage Putin to act in a Western way and to adopt the Western economic model.
HE DEFINED AS A PATRIOT
According to Blair, who said Putin was “patriotic” and “sensitive to the loss of Russia’s prestige in the world,” the Russian leader had a similar mindset with former French President Charles de Gaulle.
On his birthday in October 2001, Putin became the first world leader to be given silver number 10 cufflinks in reference to the address of the British Prime Minister’s Residence.
But behind the scenes, Prime Minister’s officials were more skeptical of Putin.
A few months ago, a document called “Putin’s Progress” was prepared for John Sawers, Blair’s defense adviser and later MI6 Director. In the anonymous document, it was stated that Putin’s “constructive” comments to Blair were “refuted” by the steps he took.
The long list of examples given to this determination includes the Kursk tragedy, in which 118 Russian sailors drowned. Putin said he was grateful for Britain’s help. Russian authorities, however, thwarted relief efforts. They also repeated baseless rumors that the collision with a British submarine had caused the disaster.
On NATO, Putin told Blair he would not try to slow the alliance’s expansion. The then Russian Defense Minister, Igor Sergeyev, told his NATO counterparts that this would be a “big political mistake” and that Russia would “take the necessary steps”.
Putin lauded the “closeness” between Britain and Russia, and even suggested building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to supply the UK with gas.
Putin told Blair that this pipeline would “guarantee natural gas supplies for decades.” Although the proposal was raised during the meeting of the two leaders in Moscow in 2002, it was never built.
Meanwhile, the presence of Russian intelligence was at the level of the Cold War, and they “continue to appoint officials whose work is active and hostile to British interests around the world.”
CLINTON WANTED TO BE REVENGE
In England, government documents are made public after 20 years. The latest documents released include the controversial election of George Bush as the US President in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the invasion of Afghanistan, and the events before the Iraq War.
In 2001, the Blair administration also had to deal with the new president in the United States. As soon as George Bush’s election victory was confirmed by the Supreme Court, the Blair administration took action, according to archival files. Blair had close ties to Bill Clinton and wanted to quickly engage with his successor.
Blair was the first foreign leader to call to congratulate Bush. During the eight-minute phone call, Blair asked if they could call each other by their first names, Bush agreed, but then continued to call Blair “Sir”.
Before Bush’s inauguration, defense adviser John Sawers and Blair’s private secretary, Jonathan Powell, traveled to Washington to meet with officials on Bush’s team.
Powell wrote that they were well received. “They all say they want to maintain the special relationship. But it won’t be as hot as it was with the Clinton administration. “Unlike Clinton, they won’t do us any political favors,” he said.
Meanwhile, Clinton wanted to remain friends with Blair and criticize his successor.
In March 2001, Powell said Clinton “wanted revenge” and wrote, “We don’t want to be associated with Clinton.” Bill Clinton’s adviser Sidney Blumenthal said that Blair disappointed Clinton at that time.