Direct UK military involvement in Ukraine ‘very unlikely’, Foreign Secretary says

By Henry Sandercock
Sunday, 30th January 2022, 2:02 pm
Updated Sunday, 30th January 2022, 2:03 pm
The British army is ‘very unlikely’ to be directly involved in a Russia-Ukraine war, Liz Truss has said (image: Getty Images)
The British army is ‘very unlikely’ to be directly involved in a Russia-Ukraine war, Liz Truss has said (image: Getty Images)

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said it is “very unlikely” British soldiers will be fighting Russian troops in Ukraine if a war breaks out in the country.

Ms Truss was echoed by Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, who said there were currently “no plans” to deploy western forces in the Eastern European country.

The pair’s comments come after US defence officials warned a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrific”.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed more than 100,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border and has made a series of demands concerning the country’s future - including that it is not allowed to join Nato.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold a phone call with Mr Putin and visit Eastern Europe in the coming days.

What did Liz Truss say?

The Foreign Secretary appeared on BBC political programme Sunday Morning to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

When asked whether she could rule out British soldiers being deployed “on the ground” or whether there was any scenario in which they’d be deployed to fight Russian troops in Ukraine, Liz Truss said it was “very unlikely”.

Instead, Ms Truss said the UK had been and would be offering Ukraine intelligence, cyber support and defensive weapons.

“This is about making sure that the Ukrainian forces have all the support we can give them, whether it’s intelligence support, whether it’s cyber support, whether it’s defensive weapons, which we have been supplying into Ukraine,” she told the programme.

Citizens in Ukraine are being trained up to fight in the event of a Russian invasion of their country (image: Getty Images)

The Foreign Secretary added that new legislation announced this week will widen current sanctions so “there will be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs”.

US officials had reportedly said this week that it was difficult to impose meaningful sanctions on Russia because money from the state was “entrenched” in London’s financial and property markets.

In a separate interview, Ms Truss also said she believed the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project ought to be halted in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We cannot favour short-term economic interests over the long-term survival of freedom and democracy in Europe. That’s the tough decision all of us have got to make,” she told Sky News’ programme Trevor Phillips On Sunday.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine is deemed likely in February (image: Getty Images)

‘No plans’ for Nato deployment

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also appeared on Sunday Morning.

He said the defence organisation had “no plans” to deploy troops to Ukraine.

Mr Stoltenberg explained that this was partly down to the difference between the two membership levels within Nato.

“For all Nato allies, we provide 100% security guarantees, meaning that if one ally is attacked, that will trigger a response from the whole alliance. One for all, all for one, which is the core message of Nato.

“For Ukraine, a partner, we provide support and also send the message that there will be heavy economic sanctions if Russia uses force again.”

It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be looking at doubling the number of British troops deployed on continental Europe.

10 Downing Street said it could send defensive weapons to Estonia while fast jets, warships and military specialists may be sent to protect other Nato allies.

The offer will be finalised by UK officials and Nato in Brussels next week, while ministers will discuss military options on Monday.

Additional reporting by PA