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9 Feb, 2022 23:36

UK proposes increase in troops to counter Moscow

PM Boris Johnson is set to offer a boost in the military presence near the Russian border in a meeting with the NATO chief
UK proposes increase in troops to counter Moscow

The UK will offer to NATO an increase in the number of British troops in Estonia, and the deployment of additional Royal Air Force (RAF) jets to Southern Europe and Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean at the upcoming meeting between PM Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, 10 Downing Street said in a statement on Thursday.

The new military package will be officially presented during a visit on Thursday by Johnson to the US-led alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. The proposed build-up near Russia’s borders will be conducted in the name of “protecting” NATO allies.

“When NATO was founded, allies made an historic undertaking to safeguard the freedom of every member state. The UK remains unwavering in our commitment to European security,” the statement quoted Johnson as saying.

The prime minister’s office said the offer would include “doubling the number of UK troops in Estonia in support of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, deploying more RAF jets to create a squadron in Southern Europe, and sailing both HMS Trent and a Type 45 Destroyer to the Eastern Mediterranean,” ostensibly in order to “help protect the seas and skies in NATO’s southeast corner.”

British troops that have already been deployed to Poland, and the soldiers that would arrive in Estonia “over the coming weeks” would “help Poland and other Eastern European countries cope with the impact of any Russian aggression,” the prime minister’s office said.

Downing Street also announced that 1,000 more British troops would be put on standby in the UK to support the alliance and its allies “in the event of a humanitarian crisis.”

Johnson, who is now facing multiple calls to resign at home amid the Partygate scandal, will use his upcoming visits to Brussels and Warsaw to call on NATO members to “demonstrate their solidarity with NATO allies who bear the brunt of Russian aggression,” according to his office.

The prime minister’s trip to continental Europe coincides with the visit of his foreign and defense ministers to Moscow. Liz Truss and Ben Wallace will call on Russia to cease what the statement called an “aggressive campaign of hybrid warfare” and engage in “meaningful talks.”

Over the last few months, the US and UK have been accusing Russia of planning to invade Ukraine, which Moscow has vehemently denied, dismissing the allegations as “fake news.” Ukraine has also urged Western media and politicians who are warning of an “imminent” invasion to stop fueling panic.

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern over the continuing expansion of NATO towards Russia’s borders – in particular, the idea of Ukraine potentially joining the military bloc. Moscow has called Kiev’s aspirations to join NATO a “red line,” and attempted to restart dialogue with the US and NATO with proposals for security guarantees in December. After a series of talks, the US and NATO rejected Moscow’s demands, which included guarantees to halt the eastward expansion of the military bloc and the deployment of offensive weapons along Russia’s borders.