The defence secretary Ben Wallace has warned Russian against invading Ukraine as troops amass on the border (Alamy)
3 min read
The defence secretary Ben Wallace has warned Russia against invading Ukraine insisting that “no one is going to win”.
Wallaces warning follows the UK’s announcement that it is sending 1,000 troops to eastern Europe in demonstration to Vladimir Putin that Nato is “not flaky”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer will meet with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels today, while foreign secretary Liz Truss is in Moscow for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
They are hoping to warn Russia off making an incursion into their neighbour’s territory having amassed half of all of its combat troops on the borders of Ukraine and in Belarus.
“No one is going to win from an aggressive invasion of a sovereign state,” Wallace told Times Radio this morning.
Wallace said the additional deployment of British soldiers was intended to underline Nato’s commitment to defending its members.
“What this is really about is saying to President Putin, ‘Nato is not flaky. Nato will stand by its members, big or small’,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
He added that we would not allow Russian troops to build up on the borders “without Nato having a response to defend its own members”.
Wallace urged Russia to understand that the West is serious “both about sanctions and what could follow” any attempt by Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
“I think the most important issue here is not the choice sovereign countries make but the freedom to have that choice,” he told Times Radio.
“I don’t go around Europe and other countries who are not in Nato saying you must join Nato.
“Nato doesn’t go around choosing people, it lets people choose through its open door policy. What we’re really all trying to do whether you’re in Nato, or not in Nato, is protect the sovereign right of countries.”
Truss has warned Lavrov that a war in Ukraine would be “disastrous”. Following the meeting, Truss said: “The reality is we cannot ignore the build-up of over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and the attempts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Fundamentally, a war in Ukraine would be disastrous for the Russian and Ukrainian people, and for European security.
“Nato has made it clear that any incursion into Ukraine would have massive consequences and carry severe costs.”
She called on Russia to abandon the “Cold War rhetoric”, and instead engage in “meaningful discussions with Nato to improve European security”.
Johnson is expected to reiterate an offer to strengthen Nato’s defences should Russian aggression in eastern Europe increase, and following the Brussels meeting is scheduled to fly to Warsaw for talks with Poland’s leaders, and to meet British troops stationed there.
But Labour have claimed Johnson’s standing on the international stage is being weakened by the partygate scandals.
“The defence secretary has done his best but the PM has simply been absent from top-level international diplomacy when it’s most required,” shadow defence secretary John Healey said.
Wallace dismissed the suggestion and accused Labour of “talking in their own echo chamber”.
“I visited 11 countries in the last two-and-a-half weeks, I’ve visited and talked to nearly 20 international partners since December, and that’s absolutely not the case,” he told the BBC.
“What’s absolutely the case is Britain is recognised as a serious player.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is also travelling to Brussels to meet Stoltenberg today, as part of attempts to distance the party from his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy position.
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