Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders. Moscow in turn accused Ukraine, the United States and allies, of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
According to Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the US Army Europe, it is clear Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to use all of his “capabilities” to destabilise the West.
Writing for Politico, he said: “While it’s not clear whether Russia aims to capture or occupy all of Ukraine, it is very clear that the Kremlin is prepared to use all its capabilities to enforce the ‘red lines’ Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to define.”
Arguing Russia has already shown its unwillingness to comply with international law while pursuing legal and economic threats against western nations, Mr Hodges alleged: “This is classic Russian behaviour — using all sorts of tools, leverage, threats, language, legal interpretations and disinformation at their disposal to keep us off-balance, unsettle and destabilise the border of the EU and present Ukraine to the West as a ‘failed state’ — especially while Germany is led by a caretaker government until the new coalition is in place.
“EU leaders should already be very familiar with this; many of the same measures are also being used in Russia’s dealings with the EU.
“From the disinformation campaigns carried out in Spain and Italy and cyberattacks on Poland and Germany to the widely reported Russian wave of misinformation around COVID-19 campaigns.”
He added: “And indeed, some of Ukraine’s supporters already recognise the nature and potential of the threat Russia currently poses.
“The prospective UK-Ukraine arms deal aiming to help modernise Ukrainian armed forces reminds us of this.
“If the combined diplomatic and economic power of the EU, in concert with the United States and the UK, are inadequate to deter Russia from its current path, then we are in for a long, cold winter.”
Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, a show of support at a time when Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Government this week voiced Britain’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine and said it would back Kyiv in the face of Russian hostility while opposing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
In a statement after their meeting, Zelenskiy welcomed a framework agreement to use British financing to enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities, allowing Ukraine to buy missiles, build missile ships and a navy base on the Sea of Azov.
“The United Kingdom has become our key partner in building the Ukrainian fleet,” Zelenskiy said, according to a statement on the presidential website.
Britain’s most senior military officer, General Nick Carter, said there is a greater risk of an accidental war breaking out between the West and Russia than at any time since the Cold War.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in the same year.
The West and Russia have also clashed over a migrant crisis unfolding on the European Union’s eastern borders with Belarus, a close Moscow ally.