Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned Russia’s Vladimir Putin against making a “strategic mistake” by launching an invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Truss was speaking as Nato foreign ministers gathered in Latvia to consider how to respond to Russia’s military build-up near the Ukrainian border and the tensions on the frontier between Belarus and Poland.
She will use the summit in Riga to call for the alliance to present a united front in standing up to Moscow while also keeping open channels of communication with the Kremlin.
The Foreign Secretary also indicated that Russian influence was stirring up tensions in the Balkans.
Ms Truss said: “We want a world where freedom and democracy don’t just survive, they thrive.
“To this end, we will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity.
“We will support Ukraine and stability in the western Balkans, to safeguard their security and build their economic resilience.”
She rejected claims from Moscow that Nato’s actions were provocative.
“We have seen this playbook from the Kremlin before when Russia falsely claimed its illegal annexation of Crimea was a response to Nato aggression.
“Nato is an alliance forged on the principle of defence, not provocation. Any suggestion that Nato is provoking the Russians is clearly false.
“Any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy that our partners enjoy would be a strategic mistake.”
Truss in Latvia
Ahead of the summit in Latvia, the Foreign Secretary met British troops deployed in Estonia as part of Nato’s enhanced forward presence in the alliance’s eastern members.
Pictures emerged of her riding a tank, much to the amusement of people on social media.
Earlier today a defence minister told parliament a nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine would be “a very unwelcome outcome”.
The understatement by Tory frontbencher Baroness Goldie of such a catastrophic scenario, which she said she hoped could be avoided, sparked muted wry laughter among peers at Westminster.
Lady Goldie made her comments as she was pressed over a deal struck between the UK and Ukraine which will see warships and missiles sold to the country amid rising tensions with Russia.
Boris Johnson has previously warned Vladimir Putin against making a “tragic mistake” as tensions rise with a military build-up by Russia on the border with its ex-Soviet neighbour.
“Greatest risk to survival”
Speaking in the House of Lords, former Navy chief Lord West of Spithead said: “The greatest risk to survival of mankind isn’t global warming, it’s an accidental thermo-nuclear war.”
He added: “One has to look at the dreadful behaviour of Putin, not just around the Ukraine but in a number of other ways and his very loose talk about his de-escalatory policy of using a nuclear weapon should he be losing a conventional war, to see what the real risks are.”
Arguing the situation with Ukraine had been “dealt with badly”, Lord West said: “We need to get back urgently round the table or there will be a mistake and goodness me that will be it.”
Lady Goldie said: “That would be a very alarming prognosis and a very unwelcome outcome, which I hope, obviously, can be avoided.”