Russia: Reaction 'stronger than Putin expected' says Ricketts
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Britain has reportedly been in talks with the US about potential deployments to bolster NATO’s flank in eastern Europe. It comes as fears of an invasion have been running high as Russia has amassed 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.
A Whitehall source told Sky News that sending hundreds more British forces to eastern Europe was “one of many” options.
But the source stressed no decision had yet been taken.
NATO allies are understood to be mulling the possibility of setting up new 1,000-strong battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.
Another Whitehall source confirmed a new deployment was possible but added that it was still “very much speculation”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Britain was prepared to deploy troops to protect NATO allies in Europe should Russia invade Ukraine.
Mr Johnson, making a statement to the Commons, said: “The British Army leads the NATO battle group in Estonia and if Russia invades Ukraine, we would look to contribute to any new Nato deployments to protect our allies in Europe.”
Asked about this on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “We already deploy troops in Estonia as part of our enhanced forward presence.
“We are looking at what more we can do. We’re working very closely with allies.
“I had a meeting with the NATO secretary-general in Brussels earlier this week to discuss that, but the UK is already at the forefront of providing forces in Estonia and providing broader support across eastern Europe.
“But be in no doubt, NATO is determined to increase support on the eastern flank to support our NATO allies, who of course we have strong obligations to.”
Ms Truss also said the UK is not ruling out support for personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin in the event of an invasion.
The Foreign Secretary made the comments after US President Joe Biden suggested penalising Mr Putin could be an option.
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today admitted he is “not optimistic” a Russian incursion into Ukraine can be stopped.
Mr Wallace told the BBC there was still “a chance” an invasion could be halted, but added: “I’m not optimistic.”
He also confirmed he is due to meet with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow.
It comes as Russian troops have massed at the border with Ukraine sparking invasion fears, which Moscow denies.
Intense diplomatic activity has failed to ease tensions.
Russia wants the West to promise that Ukraine, which also shares a border with the EU, will not join its NATO defensive alliance.
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