Brussels – Europe faces “the most dangerous moment” in its “biggest security crisis” for decades, as tensions grow between Russia and Ukraine, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking in Brussels, the prime minister said he hoped “strong deterrence” and “patient diplomacy” could find a way through the crisis but the stakes were “very high”.
Russia denies it plans to invade but has 100 000 troops on Ukraine’s border.
Johnson will travel to Poland later in support of Nato allies.
In a joint news conference with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister said he did not believe Russia had yet taken a decision on whether to invade Ukraine but the UK’s intelligence “remains grim”.
Asked whether the UK would consider going further in its support for Ukraine, including military support for an insurgency if Russia invades, Johnson said he would “consider what more we can conceivably offer”.
“It’s possible, I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one,” he said.
“But I want to stress it would be an absolute disaster if it was to come to that, and if there was to be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil.”
As part of a surge of UK diplomatic activity, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also in Moscow to meet her Russian counterpart, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will travel to Russia on Friday.
Truss told Sergei Lavrov that Russia should abandon its “Cold War rhetoric” and engage with Nato to improve European security.
She also urged Russia to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” – but Moscow wants assurances Ukraine will not be allowed to join Nato.
The prime minister said Nato’s open door policy allowing Ukraine to aspire to membership was “non-negotiable”.
But he said issues on the agenda in discussions with Moscow included transparency about Nato exercises and the stationing of missiles.
Stoltenberg said the military alliance was “prepared to listen to Russia’s concerns” but added: “Nato will not compromise on core principles – the right of each nation to choose its own path and Nato’s ability to protect and defend all allies.”
Asked if he had seen any concessions over Russia’s concerns about Nato, Lavrov told a news conference he had only heard a demand to “remove Russian troops from Russian territory”.
He said relations between the UK and Russia “leave much to be desired” and are at the “lowest point over the past few years”.
It came after Truss said: “We need to see the troops and the equipment that is stationed on the Ukrainian border moved elsewhere.”
Lavrov said the talks had been “disappointing” and it was a case of “the deaf talking to the blind”. (BBC)