We need to strengthen and rebuild the Western alliance – Jeremy Hunt

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Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken of the need to “rebuild the Western alliance” as he called on the EU to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US and consider further sanctions against Russia.

Mr Hunt, speaking ahead of a major speech in the US, said that, in the wake of the Salisbury and Amesbury attacks, it was his desire to strengthen alliances to ensure that nations “considering whether to cross red lines actually think again”.

The Cabinet minister, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, praised the US for implementing fresh sanctions against Moscow and said the EU needed to “make sure we’re matching that”.

He said: “America said that within 90 days they will implement sanctions and we have to recognise that is taking things further and we have to, as Europeans, make sure that we’re matching that because this happened on European soil.

“So we’re not saying we’re going to do exactly the same thing, but we have to make sure that our reaction is to stand shoulder to shoulder with America.”

He added: “We need to strengthen and rebuild the Western alliance so that the people who are considering whether to cross red lines actually think again.”

Mr Hunt was challenged over Donald Trump’s record and answered accusations that the US leader had done more to disrupt alliances, he said: “My interpretation of President Trump, having met him briefly when he came over to the UK for the visit in July, is that this is someone who does fundamentally believe there should be a rules-based order internationally.

“He’s someone who, as a businessman, has traded all over the world; he just doesn’t think it’s working terribly well the way it does now.”

Shadow international secretary Barry Gardiner later spoke against further sanctions, telling the Today programme that they would “ratchet up international tensions”.

He said: “I don’t think it’s the right way to go, there needs to be critical engagement, there needs to be dialogue with Russia, we need to try and reduce international conflict, and especially to help bring the horrific Syrian war now to an end.

“We don’t want to increase the tensions at a time when we really need to be focused on doing that.”

Mr Hunt’s visit to the US follows the historic and controversial summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Trump in Helsinki, which led to widespread criticism of the US leader.

Vladimir Putin File Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Peter Muhly/PA)

He will say: “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.

“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 Secretary’s three-day visit to the United States will also see him hold talks with senior Trump administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law, Downing Street said.

Among the discussion topics are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Yemen and the Middle East peace process, the Foreign Office said.

He will then travel to New York, where on Thursday he is due to address the United Nations Security Council and discuss the fight against Islamic State.

He is also due to discuss humanitarian issues with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

European Commission deputy chief spokesman Alexander Winterstein, asked if commission president Jean-Claude Juncker still wanted an end to “Russia-bashing” or now favoured a tougher stance outlined by Britain, told reporters in Brussels: “The position of the president has not changed, it’s fully in tune with the position of the European Union.

“At the same time the president has always said and continues to believe that it is always better to keep communication channels open and not closed.

“But his position on Russia is clear and has not changed.”

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