UK set to bolster NATO bid with major military deployment to Europe’s borders amid growing Russian aggression

T-72B3 tanks of the 150th Rifle Division of Russia’s Southern Military District take part in a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range. The division’s units will work on a wide range of tasks, including organizing overall tactical exercise support as part of the battalion’s battle groups during the exercise.

Erik Romanenko | CASS | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The United Kingdom plans to double its military strength and send defensive weapons to Estonia, another NATO member, as security conditions on the Ukraine-Russia border worsen. deteriorate.

British officials are expected to visit NATO headquarters next week to finalize details of the proposed security package, which will include additional troops, fighter jets and warships.

The British Embassy in Washington said Johnson is expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week and will visit the region in the coming days. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is also expected to meet NATO allies in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia this week.

“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,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a statement. Sunday night.

“If President Putin chooses the path of bloodshed and destruction, it will be a tragedy for Europe. Ukraine must be free to choose its own future,” he added.

The UK currently has over 900 British military based in Estonia, over 100 troops in Ukraine and around 150 troops in Poland.

The aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is currently ready to move within hours if tensions rise further.

Last week, the US Pentagon placed 8,500 US troops on “high alert” to deploy to Europe if NATO activates a response force. The troops represent the US contribution to the 40,000-strong NATO Response Force, or NRF, whose activation requires approval from all 30 NATO members.

US President Joe Biden has not pledged to send US combat troops directly to Ukraine, but rather to neighboring NATO countries.

For months, the West has watched a steady buildup of Kremlin forces along Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus. The increased military presence mimics Russian measures before its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, a Black Sea peninsula, which sparked an international outcry and triggered a series of sanctions against Moscow.

The Kremlin denied that the troop deployment was a prelude to an attack and instead called the move a military exercise.

Senior Pentagon officials warned on Friday that the consequences of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrifying”.

“Given the type of forces that are deployed, ground maneuver forces, artillery, ballistic missiles, air forces, all of that bundled together. If that were unleashed against Ukraine, that would be important, very important, and that would result in a significant number of casualties and you can imagine what that might look like in dense urban areas, all along highways, etc.,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Mark Milley.

“That would be horrible,” added Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer.

Milley said Russia’s position along the Ukrainian border was unlike anything he had seen in his four-decade military career. He said the Russians have deployed air forces, naval forces, special forces, cyber electronic warfare, command and control, logistics engineers and other capabilities along the Ukrainian border.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who spoke alongside Milley, called on Moscow to defuse tensions by withdrawing Russian troops and military equipment from its shared border.

“Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy,” Austin said.

“He [Putin] can choose to defuse. He can order his troops to leave. He can choose dialogue and diplomacy. Whatever he decides, the United States will stand with our allies and partners.”

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The Pentagon’s warnings came as Russian President Putin considered US diplomatic and security proposals hand-delivered by John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Russia. Russia initially offered a cold response to the proposals.

“We will therefore await the Russian government’s reaction and assessment to our written responses,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday from the US Embassy in Moscow. “And then, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted, I would expect there to be a discussion or maybe a meeting. But I don’t know if it hasn’t been agreed .”

Russia has demanded that the United States “not establish military bases” on the territories of former Soviet states that are not already members of NATO, or “use their infrastructure for military activities or do not develop bilateral military cooperation with them”.

Russian officials have also called on the United States to prevent an eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.

Since 2002, Kiev has sought to join NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance.

The United States and NATO said such a request could not be met.

Last week, Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the second call this month, to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.

The president also told Zelenskyy on Thursday that the US Embassy in Kyiv remains open and fully operational after the State Department ordered eligible family members of its embassy staff in Kyiv to leave.

The State Department also recommended on Sunday that all U.S. citizens in Ukraine leave the country immediately, citing Russia’s continued military buildup on the border.

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