World leaders at the last NATO summit in 2019, just before the pandemic struck (Image: Dan Kitwood)
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Russia will top the agenda at NATO today as alliance leaders gather for their first summit since the pandemic began.
Boris Johnson flies to Brussels for crunch talks where he will warn counterparts of the increasing threat posed by Vladimir Putin's regime.
The Prime Minister is expected to highlight cyber attacks on western democracies, Kremlin submarines stalking the UK coast and Moscow's interference in foreign elections as he sounds the alert.
He is also set to cite the botched assassination attempt of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury in March 2018 as evidence of the danger posed by Russia.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia survived being poisoned with novichok nerve agent. But British woman Dawn Sturgess died after accidentally being contaminated.
Stressing the alliance's role in keeping Britain safe, Mr Johnson said last night: “NATO is not just important to the UK’s security – it is our security.
Boris Johnson at the last NATO summit in England in 2019
(Image: WPA Pool)
“NATO owes it to the billion people we keep safe every day to continually adapt and evolve to meet new challenges and face down emerging threats.
“This will ensure NATO is still the bedrock of global defence for generations to come.”
He added: “As we recover from the global devastation wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, we need to do so with secure foundations.
“The peace and stability brought by NATO has underpinned global prosperity for over 70 years, and I have every confidence it will continue to do so now.”
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told Times Radio: “The relationship between NATO and Russia is at a low point, the lowest point since the end of the Cold War – and we see a pattern of Russian behaviour.
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“We see the willingness to use military force against neighbours; Ukraine, Georgia.
“But we also see cyber attacks, we see attempts to meddle in our political democratic processes, to undermine the trust in our institutions and efforts to divide us.
“We have to take that very seriously, we need to strengthen our cyber defences, we need to exchange intelligence, we need to be vigilant and aware of all these different tools of aggressive actions, military and non-military, cyber and other ways of conducting aggressive actions against NATO allies.”
The leaders' meeting will be their first face-to-face summit since Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump as US President.
Mr Biden meets Russian ruler Mr Putin in Geneva for talks on Wednesday.
It comes after former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently warned that the West risks becoming embroiled in a new Cold War.
Vladimir Putin's Russia will be on the agenda
(Image: SERGEY ILYIN/KREMLIN/SPUTNIK POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Military chiefs have said the threat from the Kremlin is higher than at any time since the end of the last one.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday said the West had to “adapt to the new threats that we face”.
But, speaking at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, he offered Moscow an olive branch.
“We have to be absolutely clear with Russia and other hostile states that we will hold them to account and apply a cost for their malign behaviour,” he said.
“We would like to get the relationship onto a better footing. The door of diplomacy is always ajar, always open for better behaviour.”
The PM's spokesman said: “As with any country in the world, we want to have a constructive relationship with them.
“But with Russia, clearly there are some actions that we have talked about on a number of occasions that mean we are unable to normalise relations until those things are addressed.”