Sanctions are having a tangible impact on Russia by exacerbating negative trends in the Russian economy. Russian sovereign debt has been downgraded to junk status by two ratings agencies and forecasters predict that the Russian economy will contract by between 3.5% and 5% during the current year.
The BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—announced at the summit last week that they will not join in imposing sanctions on Russia. How much of a blow does the Minister consider that to be, and what diplomatic efforts will the UK Government make, if any, to remedy the situation?
We continue to urge all countries to bring pressure to bear, by diplomatic and other means, on Russia to desist from its interference in the affairs of Ukraine and to withdraw the support it has been giving the separatists there. I do not believe that the decision to which the hon. Gentleman referred will have a significant impact on the efficacy of the sanctions that the European Union and the United States have imposed.
Russia is properly under sanction for its misbehaviour towards Ukraine, but the harsh truth is that in our wider relations with Russia we have a clear common interest in taking on Daesh, which is very important to our national interest. Will the Minister try to ensure that where we can find common cause with Russia, we can conduct relations positively, while sustaining our disapproval of its behaviour in Ukraine?
The Prime Minister spoke to President Putin in May and made it clear that while we disagree profoundly with Russia about Ukraine we are still prepared to try to work with Russia on combating international terrorism and advancing the cause of non-proliferation. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has this week been working with the Russian Foreign Minister and other partners in Vienna to that aim.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend’s point. The Russian annexation of Crimea and its continued intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine are a breach of the Helsinki agreements as well as the agreements that Russia and Ukraine came to at the time of the break-up of the USSR. The precedent that has been set is extremely dangerous.