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Russia warns British plans for military bases in South China Sea and Caribbean could lead to retaliation

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 12-01-2019 Alec Luhn

a large ship in the water: The HMS St Albans at sea. Britain has announced plans to open new bases in the South China Sea and Caribbean - Royal Navy © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GB The HMS St Albans at sea. Britain has announced plans to open new bases in the South China Sea and Caribbean - Royal Navy Moscow on Friday condemned British plans for military bases in South East Asia and the Caribbean, and warned of retaliation if Russian interests or those of its allies were threatened.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph in an interview before the New Year that the UK would ramp up its military presence abroad after Brexit and open two new bases. Whitehall is reportedly considering building the bases in Singapore or Brunei in the South China Sea and in Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

On Friday, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists that Mr Williamson's remarks were “destabilising" and would lead to the “further militarisation of British politics”.

Video: What's on Putin's 2019 To-Do List for Russia? (Bloomberg)

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"Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world ... statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counter-productive, destabilising and possibly of a provocative nature," she said.

"In the event of any measures that pose a threat to Russia's security or that of its allies our country reserves the right to take appropriate retaliatory measures."

a woman posing for a picture: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova speaks at a briefing on Friday © Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via Getty Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova speaks at a briefing on Friday

Mr Williamson argued that other countries wanted the UK to play a larger role on the world stage, and Brexit “is our moment to be that true global player once more”. He said Britain would turn its back on the 1968 “East of the Suez” strategy that saw it close bases in Malaysia, Singapore, the Perian Gulf and the Maldives. 

But Vladimir Putin has vociferously opposed the expansion of Nato and complained about the bases that members of the alliance have in other parts of the world. 

Meanwhile, Moscow has waged a military campaign to save Bashar Assad's regime in Syria and preserve its naval and air force bases there. Some politicians have called for Russian bases to be reopened in Cuba and Vietnam. 

a man wearing a suit and tie: Gavin Williamson announces this week that nine new F-35 fighter jets are fully operational © David Rose Gavin Williamson announces this week that nine new F-35 fighter jets are fully operational During a visit to St Petersburg on Thursday, the defence minister of the Central African Republic said Russia was welcome to open a military base there.  

Moscow has been sending weapons and military instructors to the government of the impoverished, war-torn nation and is looking to profit from joint mining concerns there. It is part of a broader power play in Africa that has seen Russian invest into energy projects and deploy military and political advisors in several countries.

An investigation released on Thursday linked Yevgeny Prigozhin, the US-sanctioned patron of the Wagner mercenary group, to the killing of three Russian journalists who were investigating the group in the CAR. 

Also see: Most powerful military nations of 2018

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