The Defence Secretary has told Russia it should “go away and shut up” rather than contemplate tit-for-tat measures over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
After the Prime Minister announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats over Moscow’s use of novichok in the Wiltshire city, the Kremlin has threatened retaliatory action.
But Gavin Williamson warned Russia against escalating the diplomatic battle over the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The Defence Secretary said: “What we will do, we will look at how Russia responds to what we have done.
“It is absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury.
“We have responded to that. Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up.
“But if they do respond to the action we have taken, we will consider it carefully and we will look at our options but it would be wrong to prejudge their response.”
When asked whether UK-Russia relations had returned to pre-1990 tensions, Mr Williamson raised the prospect of the West entering a new Cold War with Moscow.
He said: “Well, let’s face it, relations ain’t good are they?
“Russia has, in my view, made a deliberate political decision in terms of what they did, in terms of attacking Britain.
“It’s often described as a cool war that we’re entering in. I would say it’s feeling exceptionally, exceptionally chilly at the moment.”
Mr Williamson’s remarks came after a speech in Bristol, where he announced the Ministry of Defence are “evolving” the capabilities of the UK’s Armed Forces to meet chemical threats.
This includes offering anthrax vaccines to the UK’s high-readiness troops as well as investing £48m in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre at the military’s Porton Down facility in Wiltshire.
Outlining global threats to the UK, Mr Williamson accused the Kremlin of “ripping up the international rule book”, and he warned the UK is at a “crossroads”.
He said: “After a long period of relative peace, threats are increasing again.
“So, we have arrived at profound moment in our history. A crossroads where the choice before us as a nation is simple.
“To sit back and let events overtake us, or step forward – seizing the moment as we leave the EU to shape our vision for a bold, more prosperous Britain.
“A Britain proud of its past and confident of its future. A Britain ready to reassert its right to do global good in a dangerous and unpredictable world.
“A Britain able to protect our security and prosperity at home and abroad.”
Mr Williamson praised the role of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development in spending UK aid as part of British “soft power” around the world, but warned military capabilities were also needed.
He said: “Let’s be clear, after 1990 we believed the world was going to become a better and safer place with every year that passed.
“Just as we believed there would probably only be one superpower. But as we have seen increasingly clearly over the last few years, the reality of that is rapidly changing.
“In every continent of the world, there are not just extremists but states willing to undermine our values, our ideas and everything that we stand for.
“To deal with this challenge we need to ensure that soft power has the hard power to back it up.”
In response to Mr Williamson’s call for Russia to “go away and shut up”, the country’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted on Facebook: “What else can the Defence Minister say of a country which is hiding the circumstances of the use of chemical agents on its territory and is not willing to disclose the information it has the way the chemical conventions demand.
“London has something to hide. Partners are getting nervous.”
From – SkyNews