DAVID Cameron has issued an impassioned rebuttal of Russia’s reported dismissal of Britain as a “small island” whose views can be ignored.
Downing Street demanded “clarification” from the Kremlin yesterday of reported remarks by a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, who was said to have told reporters that the UK was “just a small island: no one pays any attention to them”.
Mr Putin’s chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied that he was responsible for the comment, insisting it did not reflect the reality of Russia’s views on its “positive” relations with the UK.
But the Prime Minister told reporters: “I’ve been told that the Russians absolutely deny making the remark, and certainly no-one’s made it to me. But let me be clear – Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience.”
He said Britain had been responsible for the industrial revolution, the TV, the World Wide Web, the Beatles and incongruously, pop group One Direction.
“Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.
“Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.
“We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.”
He added: “For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island we are a collection of islands. I don’t want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this.”
According to reports on the BBC, Mr Peskov told Russian reporters on Thursday that Britain’s diplomatic clout was on the wane and that it was “just a small island; no one pays any attention to them”.
He was also reported to have quipped about how Russian oligarchs owned large swaths of prime London real estate.
His defensive remarks came as Tory backbencher Henry Smith used Twitter to call Mr Putin a “tosser” over the Russian leader’s stance on Syria.
Mr Cameron distanced himself from the remarks made by the Crawley MP.
“Insulting people should never have a part in foreign policy,” said Cameron of the tweet.