A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a “very dangerous moment” for the world and could encourage aggressors such as China and Iran, the foreign secretary has warned.
Liz Truss’ warning came as the UK and the US said an invasion was “imminent” – possibly on Wednesday – as Moscow amasses more than 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and the surrounding waters.
Ms Truss told Sky News: “If we saw an invasion into Ukraine, there would be severe costs in terms of a long-running conflict, we could see the undermining of security more broadly in Europe and could see other aggressors around the world see it as an opportunity to expand their ambitions too.
“This is a very dangerous moment for the world.
“This is, of course, about Ukraine, which is an important sovereign nation but it’s also about the wider stability of Europe and it’s about wider global security.”
Russia would ‘not stop at Ukraine’
The foreign secretary added that the UK is currently in negotiations with Iran over stopping them acquiring a nuclear weapon and she said China has increased its economic coercion and flights over Taiwan.
“We cannot give a message that aggression gets rewards,” she added.
Ms Truss also warned that Russia would “not stop at Ukraine” if it invaded.
“The big risk, of course, is if there is an invasion into Ukraine that will be hugely damaging for Russia and Ukraine. And it will further undermine the stability of Europe,” she said.
“This, I fear, would not stop at Ukraine. This is an attack on the neighbouring states of Russia and other east European countries in trying to undermine legitimacy of them being part of NATO.”
Ukraine has for years said it wants to be part of NATO but Russia does not want it to be.
Ms Truss added that when she visited Moscow last week for talks with her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, he could not answer why there were more than 100,000 Russian troops at the border if there were no plans to invade.
But she added: “There is still time for Putin to step away from the brink, but there’s only a limited amount of time for him to do that.”
Some Russian troops ‘return to base’
On Tuesday morning, the Russian Military of Defence said some units in the west and south of Russia, on Ukraine’s border, have started returning to their bases after completing drills.
But, it said drills are continuing in “almost all” districts and in the waters around Russia.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “February 15, 2022 will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed.
“Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot fired.”
During a televised meeting on Monday evening of President Vladimir Putin and Mr Lavrov, the pair signalled that Russia was ready to continue talks about the security grievances that have led to the crisis.
Russia has denied it has plans to invade Ukraine but Mr Lavrov said talks with the West “can’t go on indefinitely, but I would suggest to continue and expand them at this stage”.
He added that the US has offered to discuss limits for missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence-building measures.
But Moscow also wants guarantees NATO will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join – something NATO leaders have refused to bow down to, with Ms Truss saying countries should have respect for other nations’ security arrangements.