Vladimir Putin is thinking twice about invading Ukraine after the Western response to the threat is “much stronger than he was expecting”. The Russian President has deployed tens of thousands of troops and weaponry near the Ukrainian borders. However, the US has put 8,500 troops on a heightened alert to mobilise to Europe while the UK is considering sending hundreds more troops to bolster NATO’s flank.
Speaking to Robert Peston last night, the UK’s first National Security Adviser Lord Ricketts said that “the Western reaction to an invasion is stronger than Putin was expecting”.
He said: “Well, Russia has created this crisis and I think NATO’s absolutely right to respond firmly to it, in the end it’s Putin’s decision whether to use this force or not.”
Lord Ricketts also suggested that China posed more of a threat to Russia than the West, saying: “If I was the Russians and I was thinking long term, I’d be really worried about China, actually.
“I think Russia’s natural partners are in the West of Europe and China in the long term with a massively greater population, much greater economic dynamism, is a threat to Russia.”
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He continued: “Putin is sometimes lauded as a great strategist, I don’t think he is at all.
“I think he’s a great tactician, an opportunist, he has sensed a moment of division in the West.”
NATO allies have pulled together and mulled the possibility of setting up new 1,000-strong battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia, according to Sky News.
The latest possibility – of deploying hundreds of more British forces in Eastern Europe – would be intended to ward off any potential invasion.
He said: “Even in Ukraine he’s got a range of options. He’s not limited to an all-out invasion and taking over the country.
“He may be satisfied toppling the Zelensky government, he may be satisfied taking another big chunk of Ukrainian territory and putting it under Russian control.
“He’s got the momentum, he’s got the initiative, we’re responding, I don’t think we’re deterring him effectively, I think it’s very worrying.”
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who will soon be travelling to Moscow for talks with Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, admitted he was “not optimistic” a Russian invasion can be stopped