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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Warming of Ties Seen Under Brown

ReutersBrown and his wife, Sarah, arriving at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday.
Gordon Brown's appointment as British prime minister Wednesday will do little to thaw frosty political ties with Russia, analysts said.

For Russia, the Scot is something of an unknown quantity. The former chancellor of the exchequer is not a Russia expert, and his grounding in economics may act as his political compass.

"He will have to walk a tightrope," said Alex Bigham, spokesman for the Foreign Policy Centre, a Labour Party-connected think tank in London.

Bigham explained that Brown's priority would be to prod Russia on human rights and diplomatic issues while encouraging bilateral investment.

Maria Ordzhonikidze, secretary general of the Brussels-based EU-Russia Centre, said Brown's policy on Russia would depend on his policy toward the European Union. "The more independent the U.K.'s policy is from the EU, the stronger position Russia will find itself in with its 'divide and rule' approach to its European partners," Ordzhonikidze said in e-mailed comments.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika think tank and chairman of the Public Chamber's international affairs commission, said Brown's premiership would marginally benefit Russia.

"He has no established line on Russia, but he is less pro-American and less of a Europhile," he said.

Nikonov said Brown would not shift Britain's policy on sticking points such as extradition requests.

Relations fraught by a spy scandal last year in which Russia accused Britons of spying with fake rock and a dispute over the British Council plummeted to a post-Soviet low after Alexander Litvinenko, a former intelligence officer with British citizenship, was murdered in London in November.

Britain wants Russia to hand over former intelligence officer Andrei Lugovoi to stand trial for the death. President Vladimir Putin has called the request "stupidity."

Russia, in turn, wants Britain to extradite businessman Boris Berezovsky on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Berezovsky, who calls the charges politically motivated, is to be tried in absentia in a Moscow court on Monday, and has told his lawyers not to participate in the proceedings.

Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen rebel envoy also living in London, is wanted in Russia on charges of terrorism.

"You need the political will to solve these problems," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. "We are hoping that [Brown's appointment] will prove to have a positive effect."

Peskov said he did not know Putin's feelings about Brown. "Economic relations are good. Improving other relations must be a high priority," he said.

Brown's spokesman, Damien McBride, could not be reached.

The Middile East Quartet -- the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia -- announced late Wednesday that it had chosen former Prime Minister Tony Blair as its special envoy to kickstart peace talks in the region. The decision came after a reluctant Russia finally signed on.

The British Embassy was unaware of Brown's immediate plans for Russia. Brown's last trip to Moscow was for a meeting of Group of Eight finance ministers in February last year.