AThe British government is considering sending hundreds more soldiers to the Baltic States and Poland in light of the Russian troop presence on the border with Ukraine, a report says. This is intended to increase deterrence against Russia, the Times newspaper reported, citing a source at the Ministry of Defense in London.
830 British soldiers are currently stationed in Estonia, and another 140 as part of a NATO mission in Poland. The additional units could be deployed quickly should NATO allies in Eastern Europe face an increased Russian troop presence on their border, the source quoted the paper as saying.
According to the newspaper, around 100 British soldiers are currently deployed in Ukraine as part of a training mission. About 30 others were recently dispatched to train the Ukrainian army in the use of around 2,000 anti-tank missiles that London was sending to Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, meanwhile, warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against making a “huge strategic mistake”. Russia will have to pay a high price for a Russian attack on Ukraine, Truss said in a speech in Sydney, Australia on Friday. “We are ready to impose significant sanctions,” Truss said.
Truss warned that even if the Russian military has the upper hand in the conflict with Ukraine, Moscow’s army could also suffer severe losses in the event of an invasion. “Ukraine is a proud country with a long history,” she stressed. “If they have to, Ukrainians will fight to defend their country.”
The Kremlin has not learned from history and is trying to restore the Soviet Union or some kind of Greater Russia, Truss said. An invasion of Ukraine will “only lead to a terrible mess and loss of life, like we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and the conflict in Chechnya,” she warned.
Britain is among those Western countries that export arms to Ukraine. These include anti-tank missiles, for example, which can inflict serious damage on the other side.
During her visit to Australia, Truss also drew a connection between the Ukraine conflict and the strengthening of authoritarian systems around the world – China also mentioned itself literally – that were trying to “export” their dictatorship. “Together with our allies, we will stand with Ukraine and urge Russia to de-escalate and participate in meaningful talks,” Truss said. “What is happening in Eastern Europe matters for the whole world.”
The West has been threatening Moscow with massive sanctions for weeks if the Russian army attacks Ukraine. American Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in Europe looking for a diplomatic way out of the crisis. This Friday he will meet his Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. Blinken had already visited Kiev on Wednesday, and on Thursday he coordinated with European allies at a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin.
War has been raging in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army since 2014. The West accuses Moscow of providing military support to the separatists, which the Kremlin denies. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict. In the coming week, according to Duma President Vyacheslav Volodin, the Russian parliament will deal with the possible recognition of the territories seceded from Ukraine. It is about the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. There are concerns about the safety of the Russians living there, Volodin said.