Johnson said Britain would send more fighter jets to south-east Europe and warships to Eastern Europe in addition to military assistance it has already sent to Ukraine. It would also put an additional 1000 troops on stand-by for deployment to Poland to respond to any humanitarian crisis that arises from a possible conflict.
In Moscow, the British diplomatic efforts appeared to make little progress after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov humiliated his Johnson’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on the same day, saying in person that talking to her was like the “deaf talking to the blind”.
Separately, Russia began planned military drills in the Black Sea and Belarus, which neighbours Ukraine.
Johnson, at NATO headquarters in Brussels early on Friday (AEDT) said Europe was approaching its “most dangerous moment” in dealing with the crisis.
“I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken [in the Kremlin],” he said. Our intelligence, I’m afraid to say, remains grim.
“This probably the most dangerous moment, […] and we’ve got to get it right.”
He said the West was “increasingly at one” on how to push back against Russian aggression.
NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had a choice and that if it chose confrontation “it would pay a high price.”
“The number of Russian forces is going up, the warning time for a possible attack is going down,” he said. “The UK is playing a leading role delivering militarily and diplomatically.”
Johnson then visited his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw. Poland, unlike Ukraine, is a member of NATO and the EU, and shares a 535-kilometre-long border with Ukraine. It is the EU’s most-crossed border. (Ukraine is not yet a full member of the EU.)
But former British prime minister Sir John Major told the London think tank Institute for Government that it should have been Johnson sitting at the long table with Putin.
“The Prime Minister has a brief conversation, I gather, with President Putin about Ukraine, but the President of France had a five-hour meeting across the desk – now that would, typically, have been us.
“It’s an illustration of how I do not think our weight in the international community is as strong as it was or as we would wish it to be.”
Reuters, with Latika Bourke
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