UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that the United Kingdom will be willing to “contribute” to necessary NATO deployments if Russia invades Ukraine, saying Moscow has put a “gun” to the head of its western neighbor.
In an address to the House of Commons, Johnson outlined his government’s response to the growing tensions, including working with US President Biden and other European allies to impose sanctions on Russia that are “heavier than anything we have done before.”
“The British Army leads the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia and if Russia invades Ukraine, we would look to contribute to any new NATO deployments to protect our allies in Europe,” he said.
“In every contact with Russia, the UK and our allies have stressed our unity and our adherence to vital points of principle,” Johnson added. “We cannot bargain away the vision of a Europe whole and free that emerged in those amazing years from 1989 to 1991, healing the division of our continent by the Iron Curtain.”
While Ukraine has said there is “no need to panic” about an imminent invasion, the UK and US have begun to evacuate families of diplomats and non-essential staff from their respective embassies in Kiev. Johnson emphasized that despite the departures, the British Embassy would remain open.
In recent months, Russia has massed roughly 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and was recently seen moving military weapons, equipment and troops into Belarus — stoking fears of an invasion from the north.
“If the worst happens and the destructive firepower of the Russian army were to engulf Ukraine’s towns and cities, I shudder to contemplate the tragedy that would ensue,” the prime minister said.
“Ukrainians have every moral and legal right to defend their country,” Johnson told the House, “and I believe their resistance would be dogged and tenacious, and the bloodshed comparable to the first war in Chechnya, or Bosnia … or any other conflict that Europe has endured since 1945. No one would gain from such a catastrophe.”
Johnson predicted that Russia would create “a wasteland in a country which, as she constantly reminds us, is composed of fellow Slavs; and Russia would never be able to call it peace.”
Last week, the UK announced it would also be supplying Ukraine with military weapons, including short-range anti-tank missiles and additional British troops.
Johnson spoke hours after Ukraine’s SBU security service revealed it had neutralized a Russian-backed criminal group — which included one Russian citizen — that was planning to destabilize two Ukrainian border regions.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration warned it had received intelligence that Russian operatives were being deployed to conduct a “false flag” operation against Moscow’s proxies in eastern Ukraine that would serve as a signal for an invasion to begin.
In an op-ed published by the Sun, UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned of the attacks.
“Where we see Russian plans we will expose them, such as their ‘false flag’ attacks and plots for puppet regimes,” he wrote. “As I write, we are becoming aware of a significant number of individuals that are assessed to be associated with Russian military advance-force operations and currently located in Ukraine.”
On Monday, the US announced it was putting up to 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” to be deployed as part of a 40,000-strong NATO Response Force.