The “significant” military deployment will reportedly be presented to NATO’s military command next week. This is a doubling of the approximately 1,150 British soldiers already in Eastern European countries, as well as “defensive weapons” that could be sent to Estonia. The Prime Minister’s Office said Britain’s aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales was on standby to deploy “within hours” should tensions escalate.
“This package will send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their subversive activities and will always stand behind our NATO allies in the face of Russian hostility,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have instructed our armed forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week so that we can support our NATO allies.”
Phone call with Putin
Johnson plans to travel to the Ukraine region next week, although it has not yet been announced where he will go and when. He also plans to have a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tensions over Ukraine have been rising for months, and Russia has more than 100,000 troops standing close to the Ukrainian border. Putin accuses the West of not taking Russia’s security concerns in Eastern Europe seriously, including the presence of Western forces in the region.
The British leader, currently under pressure domestically over a number of lockdown scandals, says it would be a disaster for Europe if Putin opted for “bloodshed and destruction”. Ukraine must be free to decide its own future.
More than 900 British military personnel are now stationed in Estonia and more than 100 in Ukraine, taking part in a training mission that began in 2015. There are 150 or so Britons in Poland.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday that he would “soon” send a small number of troops to Eastern European countries and NATO allies. The US Department of Defense has already put 8,500 US troops on standby for deployment to Eastern Europe.
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