Britain should pursue a policy of detente with Russia, a Tory MP has said
Conservative Daniel Kawczynski warned the border between the European Union and Russia is fast becoming Europe's equivalent of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, which hosts the heaviest concentration of weapons in the world.
The Polish-born politician said that tensions with Russia have become so bad that several Democrat supporters he knew voted for Donald Trump in the hope that the Republican businessmen would help avert a catastrophic east-west conflict.
But he admitted that his views on the Kremlin were unpopular with many in British politics, revealing he had been called a "Putin apologist" for advocating a better relationship with Moscow.
Britain is currently part of an EU-wide sanctions scheme against Mr Putin, which was imposed by Brussels after he annexed the Crimean peninsula and aided separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Daniel Kawczynski, right, said the build-up of arms on the Russia-EU border is alarming
Vladimir Putin's government is the subject of sanctions imposed by the EU
But it is strongly expected that the US will pull the plug on its own punishment regime following the election of Mr Trump, with suggestions the warming of trans-Atlantic relations could prompt the UK to follow suit.
Speaking at a panel discussion on foreign affairs this week, Mr Kawczynski accused the US and Saudi Arabia of "blindness" when they backed and armed Islamist extremists in Syria in a desperate attempt to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad.
To applause, he said: "I’m calling for detente and rapprochement with Russia. The other day I was called a Trojan horse for the Kremlin, a Putin apologist, it’s a very unpopular thing to do.
"But the lack of dialogue between the US and Russia is what’s at the root of this appalling civil war.
"We need detente and dialogue with them to try and avoid these sorts of scenarios in the future."
If tit for tat missile deployment continues at its current rate, Kaliningrad will soon be akin to the North-South Korean border in Europe
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski
The Tory backbencher, who advised former PM David Cameron on eastern Europe, also warned against the growing militarisation of the border between the EU and Russia at Kaliningrad, a small enclave on the Baltic coast of Poland.
He said: "If tit for tat missile deployment continues at its current rate, Kaliningrad will soon be akin to the North-South Korean border in Europe."
But he also called for NATO to establish a permanent base in eastern Poland in light of Moscow's aggression, to demonstrate to the Kremlin that the West is "serious about protecting these countries from attack".
Mr Kawczynski made the remarks during a debate with fellow Tory MPs Andrew Mitchell and Graham Evans, which took place in London on Wednesday and was hosted by the Bow Group think-tank.
During the discussion Mr Mitchell, the former international development secretary, described Russia as an "international bully boy" and said the West must show strength and not compromise with the Kremlin.
EXPLOSIVE: American tanks FIRE towards Russia
Fri, January 20, 2017
Heavily-armed US military personnel were rushed to Poland’s border with Russia to warn Vladimir Putin against another Ukrainian-style land grab.
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A round is fired from an M1A2 Main Battle Tank belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during the first Live Fire Accuracy Screening Tests at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland
He said: "Russia has thumbed its nose to the international community. Putin is a brilliant, brilliant international strategist and he knows the West is weak. You deal with the Russians with respect and strength."
The Tory MP also raised fears that NATO would not act to defend the Baltic states, which have 40 per cent ethnic Russian populations, if the Kremlin chief attempted to sow discord and insurrection as he did in Ukraine.
And Mr Evans was even more scathing, describing Russia as an "international basket case" and Mr Putin as a "classic old Russian bear", and railing against Moscow's cyber attacks on the UK.
He blasted: "I wouldn’t trust the Russians as far as I can throw them. You only have to see when the Russians are lying because their mouths are moving."