Boris Johnson says the package of troops, weapons, warships and planes would send a clear message to the Kremlin
Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train near Kiev. —PA
Britain is set to offer NATO a “major” deployment of troops, weapons, warships and jets in Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday, in response to growing “Russian hostility” to Ukraine.
The offer, which is expected to be made to NATO military chiefs next week, could see London double the roughly 1,150 British troops currently in eastern European countries and “defensive weapons” sent to Estonia, his office said.
“This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their destabilizing activity, and we will always stand with our NATO allies in the face of Russian hostility,” Johnson said in a statement late Saturday.
“I have ordered our armed forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring that we are able to support our NATO allies on land, at sea and in the air. “, he added.
The British leader said if Russian President Putin chose “bloodshed and destruction” in Ukraine it would be “a tragedy for Europe”.
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“Ukraine must be free to choose its own future,” he argued.
Johnson, who has been under intense political pressure for weeks over a series of scandals, said on Friday he would speak to Putin in the coming days to call for de-escalation in Ukraine.
In the meantime, he is due to visit the region next week.
Relations between Russia and the West are at their lowest since the Cold War after Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border.
Britain’s Foreign Office is expected to announce to parliament on Monday its tougher sanctions regime against Russia, in a bid to target strategic and financial interests.
Meanwhile, British officials will be dispatched to Brussels, home of NATO headquarters, to finalize details of the military offer after ministers discussed the various options also on Monday.
UK Chief of Defense Staff Tony Radakin, Chief of the Armed Forces, will brief the Cabinet on the situation in Ukraine the following day.
The eventual deployment of aircraft, warships and military specialists as well as troops and armaments will bolster NATO defenses and “support UK support to Nordic and Baltic partners”, according to the office. Johnson.
Britain already has more than 900 military personnel based in Estonia, and more than 100 are currently in Ukraine as part of a training mission launched in 2015.
Meanwhile, a light cavalry squadron of about 150 men is deployed in Poland.
The warship HMS Prince of Wales – currently in Europe’s so-called ‘Great North’ Arctic region, spearheading NATO’s High Readiness Maritime Force – is ready ‘to move within hours if the tensions are rising further,” Downing Street said.
On the diplomatic front, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace are preparing to travel to Moscow for talks with their counterparts in the coming days, he added.
“They will be asked to improve relations with President Putin’s government and encourage de-escalation,” Johnson’s office said.
Wallace is also due to travel to meet with allies in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia next week.