British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned of a “dangerous moment for the world” as the “very likely” prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine could embolden other countries like Iran and China to expand their ambitions.
Speaking on Sky News, Truss said “we could be on the brink of war in Europe, which would have serious consequences not just for the people of Russia and Ukraine, but for wider security in Europe”, adding that she was “very worried”. .
His comments come as world leaders including Boris Johnson and Joe Biden seek last-minute efforts for a diplomatic situation at the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine border.
A central pillar of the dispute is Russia’s demand that the West guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO, the defensive alliance of 30 countries. Truss said it was not for Russia to determine Ukraine’s security arrangements.
She said: “The big risk is if there is an invasion in Ukraine. This would be extremely detrimental to Russia and Ukraine and further damage stability in Europe.
“President Putin has actively asked why other Eastern European countries are also members of NATO, so I’m afraid it doesn’t stop with Ukraine.
“This is an attack on neighboring states of Russia and other Eastern European countries trying to undermine the legitimacy of their NATO membership.”
Asked to elaborate on this point, the Minister of Foreign Affairs declared: “If we were to see an invasion of Ukraine, it would entail significant costs in terms of a long-lasting conflict. We could see the weakening of security more broadly in Europe, we could also see other aggressors around the world see this as an opportunity to expand their ambitions as well, so this is a very dangerous time for the world.
When asked what other countries she was referring to, Truss cited Iran and China as examples of potential aggressors.
Russia has mustered at least 130,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and Truss said an invasion of the country “could be imminent and very likely”.
She said any conflict could be a “long and protracted war”. When asked on Times Radio if Russia has the military capability to take and hold all of Ukraine, Truss said, “What we know is that the Ukrainians will fight. The UK has trained 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
“We provided defensive weapons like other allies. So it will not be easy or simple for Vladimir Putin. It could be a long and protracted war, which, of course, would create enormous damage for both the Ukrainian people and the Russian people and threaten European security.
However, Truss said Putin could still “change his mind”.
She added: “We know or believe that Vladimir Putin has not yet made a decision on whether to invade Ukraine. We think it’s very likely.
“There are a large number of soldiers lined up at the border. We know they are in a position to attack imminently, but he can still change his mind and that is why diplomacy is so vital.