The Russian-Ukrainian crisis is “the most dangerous moment” for European security in our lifetime, the British ambassador to Ireland has said.
Paul Johnston said Britain, the EU and the United States would continue their diplomatic efforts this weekend to try to defuse the imminent threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I would say the UK government thinks this is probably the most dangerous time for the European security order in our lifetime,” Mr Johnston said, adding that if Russia invades it will go against the grain. of what she has said in recent days. , that is, it does not provide for escalation or invasion.
Mr Johnston said he believed Russia was trying to keep the West guessing.
“It is legitimate for countries to exercise their troops,” he said. “But I don’t think putting nearly two-thirds of your troops on the border of a small neighbour, which you’ve already intervened in in the past, is normal exercise behavior.
The ambassador said that despite Russian insistence, Britain is of the view that there has been no significant troop withdrawal from the border.
“Russia has mobilized this huge ground force, built field hospitals, conducted naval exercises. We have seen no significant signs of the much-promised and much-vaunted withdrawal. We see signs of false flag operations and destabilizing activity in Ukraine, which would be typical Russian behavior to try to create a crisis, which would warrant some kind of intervention,” he said.
Mr Johnston, who was Britain’s lead negotiator at NATO, said Britain and the EU had sought to avoid the prospect of an invasion, but we were on the verge of it .
“So we tried to use as many levers as possible to prevent that. But we believe we are potentially on the brink of a very significant and serious European security crisis,” he said.
“And the choice is ultimately in the hands of Russia. What we’re trying to do is create the right context in terms of threats and pressures, as well as the incentives and opportunities that might lead them to follow what we hope is the wisest course,” he added.
However, he warned that as things stand, there is no guarantee of avoiding conflict.
There will be continued diplomatic activity over the weekend at the Munich conference, he said, in an effort to resolve the crisis.
“We went to Moscow ourselves, our defense minister, our foreign minister, the prime minister spoke to Putin. We coordinated very closely with our European allies, with the EU, with NATO, with the close allies, France, Germany and America. We worked independently on our own sanctions package, but we also coordinated that with the European Union and others,” he said.
Elsewhere, NATO countries are adamant that Russia cannot have any kind of veto over who can or cannot join its ranks.