HomeWorldBritain in talks to send ‘thousands of troops’ to Eastern Europe
Britain in talks to send ‘thousands of troops’ to Eastern Europe
January 27, 2022
The UK and US are considering deploying battle groups to Eastern Europe (Image: Valentin Sprinchak/TASS/Getty and Handout)
The UK and US are among a so-called “coalition of the willing” who are considering deploying battle groups to Eastern Europe, similar to those already stationed in the Baltic States and Poland. Among the countries considering accepting the deployments are Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Each battle group is expected to contain 1,000 troops.
Defence sources stressed no decision has been taken on where the troops could be deployed.
Britain is said to be more focused on helping Nato members in the Northeast of Europe, possibly pointing towards Estonia,
Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. Britain already has 830 troops, plus tanks, armoured military vehicles, self-propelled artillery, air-defence, intelligence assets and engineers in Estonia, where it is leading a battle group of 1,200. More than 300 French troops are set to join them.
And 140 British troops are in Poland as part of Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission.
The US and Nato have tens of thousands of other troops already in Europe to draw on for any additional deployments to Eastern European allies.
Four Nato battle groups ‑ each with about 1,000 soldiers ‑ are currently based in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and also in Poland.
There is no plan to send Nato forces into Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack as the country is not a member state.
A US delivery to Ukraine of defensive equipment and ammunition (Image: Handout)
The Enhanced Forward Presence was established in 2016 as a direct response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its backing of separatists in the east of Ukraine from 2014.
Russia has massed an estimated 127,000 troops near Ukraine’s border. Motorised infantry and artillery units in south-western Russia train firing live ammunition, while warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea perform bombing runs.
Dozens of warships have sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic.
One early victim of the tensions is Aleksandr Panov, who lives in Avdiivka, a city close to the contact line between the pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian army.
He was pictured outside his home, the roof of which had collapsed due to the clashes in the region.
The Kremlin has been drastically increasing the number of Russian troops in Belarus, which is bordered by Russia to the east and north-east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west and Lithuania and Latvia to the north-west.
Moscow and Minsk say the Russian troops will be part of joint snap military exercises.
The Lugansk People’s Militia (Image: Valentin Sprinchak/TASS/Getty)
The Daily Express understands Ukraine is trying to fortify a 150-mile “weak” stretch of its border with Belarus using barbed wire.
Behind Russia’s show of strength is its demand that Nato will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations into the alliance and that troops are withdrawn from former Soviet-bloc countries.
Yesterday the US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, delivered its written response.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had set out a “serious diplomatic path” to resolve the confrontation over Ukraine.
He said: “We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances.
“Right now the document is with them. The ball is in their court. We prefer diplomacy. We are prepared to move forward where there is the possibility of communication and co-operation if Russia de-escalates its aggression towards Ukraine, stops the inflammatory rhetoric and approaches discussions about the future of security in Europe in the spirit of reciprocity.
“Our responses were fully coordinated with Ukraine and our European allies and partners, with whom we have been consulting continuously for weeks.”
Mr Blinken said the US response to Russia made no concessions to the main demand that Ukraine be barred from joining Nato.
Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles (Image: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine)
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he and other top officials would advise President Vladimir Putin on the next steps.
Just hours before, Russia threatened it would quickly take “retaliatory measures” if the US and its allies reject its security demands.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss heaped pressure on Nato countries to “help supply defensive support” to Kyiv after Germany blocked Estonia from sending German-supplied weapons to Ukraine. Germany has offered to send 5,000 military helmets.
Yesterday Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko branded the offer a “joke”, saying: “The behaviour of the Germans leaves me speechless.
“What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?”
Ms Truss told the BBC’s Today Programme: “We are supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine, and working to help wean Europe and Ukraine off Russian gas.”
She has previously criticised the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has divided Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government and would rob Ukraine of valuable gas transit fees.
Ms Truss has called for the £8billion project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany and is awaiting regulatory approval, to be halted if Russia invades.
She added: “What is important is that all of our allies do the same.
“It is by collective action, by showing Vladimir Putin that we are united, that we will help deter a Russian incursion.”
Russia v Ukraine mapped (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)
Why neither side can back down
Will there be some form of military operation? Almost certainly, and there are a couple of reasons for that, writes Ed Arnold.
Looking at the amount of kit and equipment Russia is moving to the Ukraine border, you wouldn’t do that unless you were trying to call the West’s bluff.
The second point is that Putin has unilaterally escalated the situation.
He’s just gone right to the top and we can see that from the December 17 draft treaties that he submitted. They were trying to reopen the European security order which has existed since 1991.
Putin does not have anywhere to go within a negotiation ‑ he hasn’t given himself an “off-ramp”. And I don’t think Nato can sign up to anything that he might want.
Then, on the military modernisation front, Russia has been investing heavily, not just in defence but also in security architecture, because we know their internal security requirements need a lot.
The Russians are riding the crest of their military modernisation.
They won’t be able to sustain it, so from a comparative advantage point of view, the military conditions for them are never going to be more favourable than they will be in the next couple of months.
Western support for Ukraine has been gradual, then sudden, and I think if Russia were to back down now, that would increase significantly because the West never wants this to happen again.
This is the biggest challenge Nato’s faced since the Cold War. But this crisis is exactly what Nato’s for ‑ it’s really well-positioned to be in this crisis.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been consistently good. Everyone thinks he’s one of the West’s best diplomats.
This is also post-Trump, where there were some Nato discussions, also from Macron in 2019, when he said it was “strategically brain dead”.
Nato is the only geopolitical actor in town. This also shows the UK up as how they want to be as a post-Brexit European security actor.
Just because the UK has withdrawn from the EU, it does not mean they have withdrawn from Europe.
Britain is hardening its position against Russia and a lot of European nations are following. There are a variety of factors but one of the largest was the Skripal attack in Salisbury in 2017, after which the UK said enough’s enough.
That’s where I think this muscular foreign policy is heading. Ben Wallace has been leading this and Liz Truss is starting to get a bit more involved.
Boris Johnson is obviously consumed with what’s going on in Whitehall, but it does show UK strategy formulation and execution is exactly what they said in the integrated review.
Ed Arnold is research fellow for European Security
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