Ukraine.. NATO mobilizes its forces, the Kremlin accuses it of escalation, and Johnson is optimistic about the possibility of a solution
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced the deployment of standby forces for readiness in Eastern Europe; This was considered by the Kremlin as a threat, while Britain was optimistic that war was not inevitable yet, in conjunction with Western countries withdrawing their nationals from Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is scheduled to give a remote briefing to his European counterparts on the results of his recent talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.
Blinken will also discuss with the European Union foreign ministers coordinating punitive steps against Russia, in case it launched a military attack against Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The invasion of Ukraine will be painful and bloody, and it may be similar to what happened in Chechnya,” noting that intelligence information clearly confirms the presence of Russian crowds on Ukraine’s borders.
But Johnson was optimistic, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not inevitable, and “reason can still prevail” in this crisis, adding that “we must make it clear to Russia that its invasion of Ukraine would be a disastrous step.”
NATO is getting ready
And NATO announced that it is preparing reserve forces on alert, and will send aircraft and ships to enhance the defense capacity of the alliance in Eastern Europe.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend member states.
NATO’s decision coincides with military maneuvers launched by the alliance in the Mediterranean that will continue until February 4th.
“We have reached the point where the continued Russian and Belarusian military build-up in Europe needs to be addressed with appropriate NATO countermeasures,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevich wrote on Twitter.
“It is time to increase the presence of Allied forces in the eastern flank of the coalition as defense and deterrence measures,” he added.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that NATO’s sending of additional forces to eastern European countries is evidence that the alliance adopts a “threat approach and military pressure,” noting that NATO’s attempts to paint an aggressive image of Russia aim to justify the alliance’s military activities in Far Eastern Europe.
The Kremlin expressed concern about the situation in the Donbass region, and called on Ukraine not to think about settling the conflict by force.
The Kremlin said that the Kiev authorities had deployed large numbers of troops and military equipment on the line of contact, indicating that they were ready for an offensive operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Washington and NATO were escalating tensions with “advertising hysteria” and “concrete steps,” noting that the risk of an offensive by Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists was “extremely high, and higher than before.”
“We live in a hostile environment,” Peskov told reporters, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin was taking “necessary measures” to protect his country.
He added that Moscow was waiting for a written response from Washington and would decide its course of action after that, but he did not rule out further talks, including new talks between Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, and added, “Nothing can be ruled out if the need arises.”
Aid to Ukraine
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union is preparing a $1.4 billion aid package for Ukraine, indicating that it is a new “emergency aid package” that has yet to be ratified by the European Parliament and member states.
She added that since the start of the conflict in 2014, the European Union and its financial institutions have mobilized “17 billion euros in grants and loans” for Ukraine.
“This package of measures will help Ukraine meet its financing needs amid the conflict,” the European official said, adding, “As always, the EU stands by Ukraine in these difficult circumstances.”
In parallel with the military moves, several countries began evacuating their nationals from Ukraine, as the United States ordered the departure of family members of all its embassy employees, warning that Russian military action could happen at any time.
Britain announced that it would withdraw some of its employees and their relatives from its embassy in Kiev, and Austria announced that it was preparing a plan to evacuate diplomats, but it has not started yet.
As for France, it advised its nationals to “postpone non-essential or urgent travel to Ukraine as much as possible.”