British armed forces to deploy in European countries facing Russia

In a press release, the UK government writes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson considers the biggest possible offer to NATO and prepares to stand up UK Armed Forces to protect European allies facing Russian troops. The UK is expected to bolster its offer to NATO with a major military deployment to strengthen Europe’s borders in the face of rising Russian aggression. UK officials are deployed to Brussels to finalise the details of the offer with NATO, and ministers will discuss the military options.
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Soldiers of the Royal Welsh Regiment stand in front of their Warrior armored fighting vehicle near a base in Tapa, Estonia. These troops form part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the east of the Alliance (Picture source: NATO)

It comes after the Prime Minister asked defence and security chiefs to step up defensive efforts in Europe during a high-level intelligence briefing on the situation in Ukraine this week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their destabilising activity, and we will always stand with our NATO allies in the face of Russian hostility. If President Putin chooses a path of bloodshed and destruction, it will be a tragedy for Europe. Ukraine must be free to choose its own future. I have ordered our Armed Forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring we are able to support our NATO allies on land, at sea and in the air.”

The possible deployment will reinforce NATO’s defences and underpin the UK’s support for Nordic and Baltic partners. In conversations with partners in recent weeks, the Prime Minister has emphasised that without a successful combination of deterrence and diplomacy, thousands of lives will be lost in both Russia and Ukraine. The Prime Minister is expected to speak to President Putin and travel to the region to relay that message in person. A second trip to meet NATO member counterparts is being planned for early next month.

Following the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons last week, making clear that better relations with Russia were possible, the Prime Minister directed the Foreign and Defence Secretaries to prepare to go to Moscow for talks with their counterparts in the coming days. They will be asked to improve relationships with President Putin’s Government and encourage de-escalation.

The Prime Minister remains seized of the importance of pursuing diplomatic efforts in tandem, and last week joined a call with President Biden, European leaders and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg. In that call leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility and stressed that diplomatic discussions with Russia remain the first priority.

The Defence Secretary is also expected to travel to meet with Allies this week in Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has also asked the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, to attend Cabinet this Tuesday, February 1, to brief Ministers on the situation in Ukraine. The UK already has more than 900 British military personnel based in Estonia, more than 100 in Ukraine as part of Operation Orbital, and a Light Cavalry Squadron of around 150 people, is deployed to Poland. Op Orbital has trained 22,000 Ukrainian troops since 2015, and further military trainers were sent to the country earlier this month to support the training of Ukrainian forces to use 2000 missiles sent from the UK.

Meanwhile, HMS Prince of Wales is in the High North, leading NATO’s Maritime High Readiness Force. It is on standby to move within hours should tensions rise further.

According to a tweet on Intel Air & Sea, efforts of the UK deployment to Europe being considered include:
* 45 commando Royal Marines
* 26 Regiment Royal Artillery
* AH-64E Apache attack helicopters
* Royal Signals troops
* 47 Regiment Royal Artillery operating the watchkeeper
* 6 RAF CH-47 Chinook helicopters
* An RAF Typhoon squadron to Cyprus (1/2)
* A batch of 2 Royal Navy OPVs is to be sent to the Black Sea, likely HMS Trent along with a Type 45, likely HMS Diamond.

HMS Prince of Wales is in the High North, leading NATO’s Maritime High Readiness Force. It is on standby to move within hours should tensions rise further.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself says that he wants to control his near abroad – which also happens to be that of central Europe – and extend his ‘zone of influence’ there. Ukraine is one of them and it is a major sticking point. He wants the countries in this sphere […] to have limited sovereignty. That's his logic. NATO countries are therefore not simply in a test of unity between allies but faced with the application of this new doctrine with which no compromise on our part is possible", summarized Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Affairs foreigners, in an interview published by the Journal du Dimanche and quoted by Laurent Lagneau in Opex360.

The fact remains that the movements of Russian troops in the vicinity of Ukraine worry the countries that were once part of Moscow's sphere of influence before joining NATO, as was the case in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea.

The Defense Ministers of NATO member countries will decide on new measures. There is thus a discussion about launching an eFP-type mission on its south-eastern flank, in particular in Romania. France has already made known its availability to be the framework nation. The deployment in Romania should indeed essentially concern the French army which, within the framework of NATO, is already taking part in the Lynx mission, in Estonia (and therefore under British command, with 300 soldiers, 12 Leclerc tanks, and 8 VBCI Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles.