Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Nato and Poland.
Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
The UK is sending 1,000 troops to Ukraine in a show of solidarity against Russian aggression.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the move would show that NATO powers were ‘not flaky.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has amassed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border as fears grow he could launch a new invasion of the country.
The UK is placing 1,000 troops on standby to go to eastern Europe to provide support in the event of a refugee crisis in the event that Russia launches a new large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace — who will meet his counterpart in Moscow on Friday — said the move would show Russian President Vladimir Putin that NATO countries including the UK are consistent in their opposition to Russian aggression.
“What this is really about is saying to President Putin [that] NATO is not flaky. NATO will stand by its members, big or small,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Ukraine is not a NATO member, but Wallace said an invasion of the country would affect its NATO neighbours including Poland by prompting a refugee crisis.
Troops placed on standby would end up “wherever there were consequences from any Russian invasion into Ukraine that were going to be felt particularly badly or would risk undermining stability,” he added.
“It’s important to send a message to Russia to say, look, we want a dialogue, we want a way through this, but … currently Russia is now deploying over half its combat troops … on the borders of Ukraine and in Belarus.”
“We are not just going to let that happen without NATO having a response to defend its own members.”
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with Putin in Moscow this week where he said Putin promised there would be “no deterioration or escalation” in Ukraine.
But on Thursday Russia started running 10 days of joint military drills with Belarus, a country which shares a long border with Ukraine, in a move which the US described as “escalatory.”
The UK’s troop announcement came after Boris Johnson flew to Brussels on Thursday to meet NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg before travelling to Warsaw for talks with other NATO members.
Johnson said: “As an alliance we must draw lines in the snow and be clear there are principles upon which we will not compromise, including the right of every European democracy to aspire to NATO membership.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived in Moscow on Wednesday ahead of scheduled talks on Thursday with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
She said she planned to “make clear that Russia must immediately withdraw its forces and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty or face severe consequences.”
“Any incursion would be a huge mistake. Diplomacy is the only way forward and Russia must pursue that path,” she said.
Politics, News UK, Boris Johnson, Ukraine, Russia, Putin
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