UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this weekend that Russia was planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”, with intelligence suggesting that an invasion of Ukraine would encircle the capital Kiev. Mr Johnson also issued a warning to Vladimir Putin, saying: “If [Mr Putin] thinks he’s going to get less NATO as a result of this, he’s totally wrong. He’s going to get more NATO.”
The UK does not currently have boots on the ground in Ukraine. A small number of British personnel were stationed in Ukraine until recently as part of Operation Orbital training missions which began after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
But amid growing concerns of an “imminent” invasion in Ukraine, all UK troops were hastily withdrawn and all British nationals were told to leave as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, NATO members — including the UK — have been amassing troops in eastern European countries near Ukraine to beef up protection for member states.
NATO members have also been providing assistance to Ukraine in the form of weapons, equipment and cash.
Ukraine isn’t a NATO member, but it is a NATO ally. It became a member of the Alliance’s North Atlantic Co-operation Council (NACC) in 1991 when it became a newly independent state.
The NACC was established as a forum for dialogue between NATO and former Warsaw Pact states, many of which have subsequently qualified for full NATO membership.
Co-operation between NATO and Ukraine has deepened over the decades, with NATO training missions in the country and joint sea and land exercises.
Russian annexation of Crimea and its continued presence in eastern Ukraine has only served to harden the relationship.
In a Q&A on the potential of a Russian invasion, Sky News correspondent Alistair Bunkall said he “doesn’t believe” there are any circumstances in which British troops would get involved on Ukrainian soil.
He said: “British trainers have already been pulled out of Ukraine and NATO countries have been pretty clear that Ukraine is not a NATO member therefore NATO troops won’t be sent in to defend it.”
However, he added: “Conflict can spread quickly though.”
So what do you think? Should the UK send troops into Ukraine if a war breaks out? Vote in our poll and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
The US has approximately 4,700 paratroopers deployed in Poland, as well as around 80,000 active service members in Europe on standby.
But US troops have been told there is little chance of being sent into Ukraine, should a conflict arise.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told ABC News: “We will be very diligent in terms of thinking through the range of possibilities and putting the right things in place to ensure that we’ve done everything we can to protect our troops.”
He added: “President Biden has been very clear about the fact that we are not going to employ forces in Ukraine.
“We will make sure we do everything possible to protect our troops and Polish partners so there isn’t a spillover across boundaries.”
What is more likely, according to Western leaders, are sanctions against Russia in the event of bloodshed.
Mr Johnson told the BBC that the UK and US would bring sanctions, including stopping its companies “trading in pounds and dollars” — a move that he said would “hit very, very hard”.
He added: “The lesson of [the Russian seizure of Crimea in] 2014 is that you can’t just let Vladimir Putin get away with it.”