Prime minister seeks to address fears among Nato partners that Brexit will weaken resolve to stand up to Vladimir Putin
Europe must remain united in the face of the threat from Russia, David Cameron has warned, amid fears that Britains withdrawal from the EU will weaken resolve to stand up to Vladimir Putin.
Speaking at the Nato summit in Warsaw on Saturday, the prime minister said there had to be a hard-headed dialogue with Moscow to prevent any misunderstanding or miscalculation leading to conflict.
At the same time he stressed that the EU and the alliance needed to be prepared to stand firm in face of any fresh aggression by Russia following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
His comments were made after President Franois Hollande said France regarded Russia as a partner, not a threat and that Nato had no role in determining what Europes relations with Moscow should be.
Cameron told a news conference: Of course we must have a dialogue with Russia there are many issues we need to discuss with Russia, not least the situation in Syria.
But there was a very strong consensus that we need to have that dialogue from a position of unity and strength over the issue of Ukraine. Boundaries are being redrawn in Europe by force by one power and Europe and Nato must be strong against that.
We are not seeking confrontation with Russia. We are working to prevent it so we will continue to pursue a twin-track approach of deterrence and dialogue. We must engage in a hard-headed dialogue with Russia to avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation.
After Nato leaders confirmed plans on Friday to station four new battalions numbering around 4,000 troops including 650 British personnel in eastern Europe, Cameron said the Nato-Russia council would meet next week for the first time in many months in an attempt to ensure the deployments did not create new friction.
Cameron also confirmed that Britain is to send an additional 50 troops to Afghanistan in a training and mentoring role while extending the mission of the 450 already there to help shore up the Afghan security forces.
It followed an announcement by Barack Obama on Wednesday that the remaining 8,400 US troops in the country are to stay on for the rest of his presidency in the face of the worsening security situation.
Speaking on Saturday at his last Nato summit before he steps down in January, Obama pledged the United States long-term military commitment to ensuring security in Europe and defending its allies.
The US president said the western defence alliance had agreed on the most significant reinforcement of its collective defence since the cold war by agreeing to deploy forces in the Baltic states and Poland in response to Russias seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
What will never change [is the] unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defence of Europe, he said.
His comments were made against the backdrop of a presidential election campaign in which the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has called Nato obsolete and suggested US allies should take care of their own defence.