Hunt uses first speech in US to attack Putin’s ‘malign behaviour’

In his first speech as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt will risk embarrassment for his hosts by sounding the alarm over Russian interference in foreign elections in an address on US soil. Picture: TSPL
In his first speech as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt will risk embarrassment for his hosts by sounding the alarm over Russian interference in foreign elections in an address on US soil. Picture: TSPL
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In his first speech as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt will risk embarrassment for his hosts by sounding the alarm over Russian interference in foreign elections in an address on US soil.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, Mr Hunt will say Vladimir Putin has made the world a less secure place and warn against attempts to undermine western democracy through fake news and interference.

It comes weeks after US president Donald Trump contradicted his own security services by voicing doubts over Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 American election – before reversing himself following an outcry at home.

On his return to Washington following an unminuted, private audience with the Russian president in St Petersburg, Mr Trump later appeared to suggest Moscow no longer posed a threat to the US and the integrity of its elections.

However, in his speech, Mr Hunt is expected to say: “[Russia’s] aggressive and malign behaviour undermines the international order that keeps us safe.

“Of course we must engage with Moscow, but we must also be blunt. Russia’s foreign policy under President Putin has made the world a more dangerous place.”

The Foreign Secretary will add: “The heart of any democracy is freedom of expression, which allows citizens to access independent information to help decide who to vote for.

“But the ubiquity of fake news, social media targeting and foreign attempts to manipulate elections have undermined confidence that this can actually happen.”

During a three-day visit, Mr Hunt will hold talks with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Jared Kushner, the president’s advisor and son-in-law.

He will then travel to New York to address the United Nations Security Council and meet UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

Mr Hunt will also urge the EU members to ensure the allies speak with “one voice” against transgressions by Moscow “whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea”.

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel have also recently met Mr Putin and the new Italian government has questioned whether sanctions imposed over the 2014 annexation of Crimea should continue.

Mr Hunt will also discuss Brexit in his speech, warning that a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit represents “one of the biggest threats to European unity”.