As I type this, Russian ships are starting their passage through the English channel on their way to Syria, escorted by the Royal Navy every step of the way.
When the Russian Imperial Navy sailed close to the British coast in 1904 things went very badly. The Russian fleet was on its way to fight Japan. It had to go via the Atlantic as the British were allied to Japan and refused to let the Russians use the Suez canal. In Dogger bank the Russians spotted Scottish fishermen and assumed they were Japanese ships that had sailed round the world to ambush them. The Russians opened fire, three fishermen died and a number were wounded. The incident almost led to war between Britain and Russia.
Wikipedia tells the story.
The disaster of 21 October began in the evening, when the captain of the supply ship Kamchatka, which was last in the Russian line, took a passing Swedish ship for a Japanese torpedo boat and radioed that he was being attacked. Later that night, during fog, the officers on duty sighted the British trawlers, interpreted their signals incorrectly and classified them as Japanese torpedo boats, despite being more than 20,000 miles (30,000 km) from Japan. The Russian warships illuminated the trawlers with their searchlights and opened fire. The British trawler Crane was sunk, and its captain and first mate were killed. Four other trawlers were damaged, and six other fishermen were wounded, one of whom died a few months later. As the trawlers had their nets down, they were unable to flee and, in the general chaos, Russian ships shot at each other: the cruisers Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi were taken for Japanese warships and bombarded by seven battleships sailing in formation, damaging both ships and killing a chaplain and at least one sailor and severely wounding another. During the pandemonium, several Russian ships signalled torpedoes had hit them, and on board the battleship Borodino rumours spread that the ship was being boarded by the Japanese, with some crews donning life vests and lying prone on the deck, and others drawing cutlasses. More serious losses to both sides were only avoided by the extremely low quality of Russian gunnery, with the battleship Oryol reportedly firing more than 500 shells without hitting anything.
What a tragedy that we shortly afterwards informally allied with Russia, instead of keeping close to the Ottoman Empire, which might otherwise still exist today, and keeping out of the First World War. And what a tragedy that, under pressure from the Americans, we let our alliance with Japan lapse in the 1920s.
In fact British foreign policy is a series of mistakes since 1900, but perhaps even starting in the reign of William III. We were misled by the mistaken notion that we should prevent one power taking full control of the continent. Then, after 1973, we subscribed to the idea of being part of one continental power that could treat with the USA (and Russia) as an equal.
Now a reset. It is time for blue sky rethinking about British foreign policy.
I wonder what purpose is served by the UK remaining in Nato. The answer I have is that Nato is worthwhile for continental Europe, not for Britain, and would, I suppose, break up if we left, leaving the continent in disarray.
After sixty years of confederation-building it is instructive that Europe is unable to take care of defending itself against post-Communist Russia, without Britain, the USA and Canada.
And of course the real threats to Europe are not from Russia but from Islamists, Islamification, asylum seekers and mass migrations of peoples.