Tony Blair argued Putin should be on 'TOP TABLE' after welcoming Russian President with birthday cufflinks

Archives reveal that Tony Blair encouraged Putin to 'reach for western attitudes'
Archives reveal that Tony Blair encouraged Putin to 'reach for western attitudes'
Peter Jordan
Georgina Cutler

By Georgina Cutler

Published: 30/12/2022

- 10:49

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:25

Newly released papers reveal that Tony Blair argued that Putin should have a seat at the 'top table' and encouraged integration with the West

Archives reveal that former Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that Vladimir Putin should be given a seat at the international “top table” and gifted him silver cufflinks for his birthday in 2001.

Papers released by the National Archives said Blair wanted to encourage the Russian President to “reach for western attitudes”.

Putin was the first leader to receive the special No10 cufflinks as a gift in October 2001 during a birthday visit to personalise ties with the UK.

Magi Cleaver, a Downing Street press officer, wrote in the memo to Blair: “You will recall Putin actually asked you to come celebrate his birthday on Sunday – so we are bringing a set of the new silver No 10 cufflinks as your gift – he will be the first leader to have them.”

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Lancaster House in London, Tuesday October 4, 2005, at the start of the EU-Russia Summit. See PA story POLITICS Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Michael Stephens/WPA Rota/PA.
Downing Street officials were sceptical of Putin
Michael Stephens

But behind the scenes, Downing Street officials had deep misgivings about the new Russian leader.

A paper on “Putin’s Progress” was prepared for Blair’s foreign affairs advisor John Sawers with an anonymous writer pointing out that the Russian President's "constructive" comments to Mr Blair were sometimes "belied" by Russian actions.

The document highlighted officials’ concerns saying: “Despite the warmth of Putin’s rhetoric about the close links between Russia and the UK, the Russian intelligence effort against British targets remains at a high level.”

Putin told Blair that he did not want to be seen as anti-Nato and spoke warmly of the “closeness” between the UK and Russia.

Proposals were also raised at a meeting in Moscow in 2002 when Putin offered to build a pipeline across the Baltic Sea to supply gas to the UK.

The files also revealed Blair’s efforts to woo George W Bush when he took over the presidency and was the first foreign leader to call to congratulate the new President in an eight-minute call.

Bush said he wanted to work as closely as possible with “your wonderful country” as Michael Tatham, the No 10 private secretary, wrote: “The prime minister asked early on if he could call the president-elect by his first name: Bush warmly assented (but stuck himself to addressing the prime minister as ‘sir’).”

Defence advisor John Sawers and Mr Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell later went to Washington to meet officials.

File photo dated 19/7/2001 of Prime Minister Tony Blair shakes hands with US President George Bush after a media conference at RAF Halton. Sir Tony Blair was desperate to establish good relations with US president George Bush, according to newly released official documents. Files released to the National Archives in Kew, west London, show Blair was the first foreign leader to call to congratulate the president-elect when his victory was finally confirmed by the Supreme Court in December 2000 following a prolonged dispute over the count in Florida. Issue date: Friday December 30, 2022.
Tony Blair was the first foreign leader to congratulate George W Bush on his presidency
John Stillwell

Mr Powell wrote: "They all said they wanted to keep the relationship special. It will not however be as cosy as with the Clinton administration. Unlike Clinton they will not do political favours for us."

But Mr Clinton wanted to maintain a relationship with Prime Minister Blair and to attack his successor.

In March 2001, Mr Powell wrote to Blair: "We don't really want to be associated with Clinton.”

The former president's adviser Sidney Blumenthal had "hinted" that Mr Clinton was disappointed Mr Blair had not called saying "you do not want to look like you are walking away from your former friend".

In a scrawled note the Prime Minister added: "Why don't I call him soon?"

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