Tories: We will stand up to Russia

A Conservative government will stand firm against a resurgent Russia, unlike the “invisible response” of the government, the shadow defence secretary has said.

“We have seen in recent weeks what Russian bullying meant for the people of Georgia,” Liam Fox told his party conference this afternoon.

“We in this party should be proud of the strong and robust response made by David Cameron, including his immediate visit to Tbilisi to make it clear that aggression should never pay.”

In a wide-ranging speech on the role of Britain’s armed forces, Mr Fox berated Gordon Brown’s “timid” reaction to the Georgian crisis.

He also returned to more traditional Conservative foreign policy themes than those articulated by David Cameron, who recently disassociated himself from US foreign policy in a speech in Pakistan.

Mr Fox was at pains to stress the importance of good relations with America, and distanced himself from the EU.

“In this dangerous world we have to choose our alliances carefully,” he said.

“And for the United Kingdom that means that NATO not the EU must be the cornerstone of our defence.”

He continued: “It is increasingly common for those on the European left to sneer at the United States with contempt and derision. Yet the ‘special relationship’ remains this country’s most important strategic alliance. “

Mr Fox also called for a better deal for those who serve in Britain’s armed forces, including better accommodation, improved healthcare and education and help onto the housing ladder.

Today is the first day of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, with talk concentrating on the state of the British economy.