LONDON — Boris Johnson urged Brussels to finalize its response to Russian aggression towards Ukraine so it can present a united front with London and Washington.
In a statement to the U.K. parliament Tuesday, the British prime minister said his country has a “hard hitting package of sanctions” against Russia “ready to go” — but called on EU leaders to solve internal differences over their response to Moscow as soon as possible.
“We want to see our European friends ready to deploy that package as soon as there should be any Russian incursion at all into the Ukraine,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Berlin to discuss a common position on sanctions with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as well as a joint answer to Russia’s demands, after EU foreign ministers struggled on Monday to present a united front against Moscow.
Johnson confirmed Britain will deploy more troops to support NATO in eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine. But he said it was unlikely NATO would send military personnel to Ukraine itself because the country is not a member of the alliance. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit Ukraine next week to discuss the situation with the government there.
Johnson said sanctions targeted at individuals are “the best way to get attention in the Kremlin,” but that Britain will also come forward with sanctions directed at companies of “crucial strategic Russian interest.”
He confirmed London is in discussions with Washington about banning Russia from the Swift banking system — a measure he described as a “very potent weapon” but one that can only be deployed with U.S. assistance.
The British premier told MPs he believed that “all of Russia’s fears could yet be allayed” through further diplomatic contacts — so long as Moscow steps away from any incursion. “We could find a path to mutual security through patient and principled diplomacy, provided that President Putin avoid the trap of starting a terrible war,” he added.
Johnson accused Moscow of planning to “salami-slice” Ukraine, after it surrounded the country with more than 100,000 Russian troops. He argued Russia is trying to create a second tier of countries in eastern Europe banned from joining NATO or other alliances without Russian approval.
“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 country by the Iron Curtain,” Johnson said.
And he added: “We will not reopen that divide by agreeing to overturn the European security order because Russia has placed a gun to Ukraine’s head. Nor we could accept the doctrine implicit in Russia’s proposals that all states are sovereign, but some are more sovereign than others.”
Russia may already have personnel in Ukraine ready to assist with an incursion, according to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. “We are becoming aware of a significant number of individuals that are assessed to be associated with Russian military advance force operations that currently are located in Ukraine,” he told a parliamentary committee Tuesday.
Johnson, meanwhile, praised Scholz for signaling that Germany could halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the event of a Russian incursion into Ukraine, and for his determination “to stand with the rest of the West to have a united front.”
Opposition Labour Leader Keir Starmer backed the government in its efforts to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend itself from Russia, but said the U.K. must do more to tackle Russian money laundering on British soil — a message echoed by Conservative backbenchers, including foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat.
“We cannot stand up to Russian aggression abroad while facilitating Russian corruption at home,” Starmer said. / Politico / sky news