Russian and Ukrainian tensions have reached boiling point over recent weeks, with Moscow massing tens of thousands of troops near the border with its neighbour. Fears over a possible attack Ukraine have been slapped down by Russia, but several Western powers have warned Mr Putin his country will be hammered with crippling economic sanctions if an invasion does take place. The Russian President has come under vicious attack from a leading foreign policy expert, who warned an invasion of Ukraine is now almost certain and that Moscow will be “going for the jugular”.
Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher, told Express.co.uk: “We are staring a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the face.
“This would be the biggest act of aggression in Europe since World War 2.
“A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be catastrophic and we must do everything we can to prevent that from happening.
“The reality is Vladimir Putin means business.”
He added: “Let’s be under no illusions – Russia is getting ready for war and preparing for an invasion.
“This isn’t a game to them – they are going for the jugular.”
The foreign policy expert has warned Western powers must get firmly on the front foot to be in a strong position to counter any potential Russia aggression.
But he fears if Russia manages to invade and take over large parts of Ukraine, they could set their sights next on Baltic states and even “test the waters with NATO countries”.
Mr Gardiner warned: “One of the biggest consequences from this is taking control of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and to even occupy the entire country.
“If Russia gets away with invading and occupying large parts of the Ukraine, in addition to Crimea, they set their sights next on the Baltic states.
“It is very dangerous for the West to make any concessions over Ukraine.
“If the West does nothing here, Putin could test the waters with NATO countries next.”
During a phone call earlier this week, Boris Johnson warned President Putin a further incursion into Ukraine would be a “tragic miscalculation”.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister stressed during the 45-minute call that Ukraine has a right to aspire to NATO membership, a move strongly opposed by Mr Putin.
On the same day, the UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke to her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to stress Britain’s support for Ukraine.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said they agreed “responding decisively and strongly to the Kremlin now will help deter future as well as present Russian aggression”.
The US is sending nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania to protect Eastern Europe from a potential spillover from the crisis over the massing of Russian troops near Ukraine.
The White House said US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron also held a call and discussed the coordination of diplomatic efforts and plans to impose economic costs on Moscow.