British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Moscow last week, where he met with Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In an email interview, Edwin Bacon, a reader in comparative politics at the University of London, Birkbeck, discussed U.K.-Russia relations.
WPR: What has been the nature of U.K.-Russian trade and diplomatic relations from the post-Cold War period until today?
Edwin Bacon: In the immediate post-Cold War years, U.K.-Russian relations flourished, marked by reciprocal state visits in 1994 and 2003. When Vladimir Putin became Russia's president in 2000, he singled out the U.K. as a key European partner. The U.K. was Russia's fourth-largest foreign investor, and Putin saw in British Prime Minister Tony Blair a young leader, like himself, who could facilitate relations with both Europe and the United States. Blair, perhaps ill-advisedly, took the unusual step of visiting Putin in March 2000 two weeks before the presidential election -- a gesture of support returned when Putin made London his first Western port of call after becoming president. Beyond high politics, London -- nicknamed Londongrad -- seemed to act like a magnet for Russians, notably the very wealthy.