UK Junior Defence Minister Warns Against Giving Ukraine NATO Protection

© REUTERS / FABIAN BIMMER / Germany sends more vehicles and troops to LithuaniaGermany sends more vehicles and troops to Lithuania
Germany sends more vehicles and troops to Lithuania - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.02.2022
While insisting NATO was a purely defensive military alliance and was not trying to expand to Russia's borders, the British armed forces minister conceded that sending troops to aid Ukraine in a war with Russia carried too much risk of an escalation between the nuclear powers.
A British junior defence minister has warned that granting NATO protection to Ukraine would justify Russian fears of Western aggression and could "fracture" the military alliance.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the West should not "play to the narrative" Russian President Vladimir Putin "peddles to the Russian public that NATO is expansionist and set on threatening Russia".
The alliance was founded just after the Second World War by Britain, France, the US, and other Western countries to oppose the Soviet Union, their wartime ally against Nazism. But since the nominal end of the Cold War it has expanded steadily eastwards to include ex-Warsaw Pact members — even the former Soviet republics of the Baltic States — on Russia's borders.
"Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO has deployed beyond its borders to Afghanistan in response to an attack on the United States; played a role in counterinsurgency and counterpiracy missions in sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq, and the Indian Ocean; and played an important part in stabilising the Balkans after the break up of the former Yugoslavia", Heappey wrote — somewhat undermining his claim that "NATO does not attack others".

However, the minister argued: "These are all very different from offering the collective security of the alliance to a non-member especially with the very real possibility that the alliance fractures as a result. It would also be exactly the pretext Putin needs to claim that he's responding to Western aggression on his borders".

Heappey's article came as Ukraine's Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko suggested that Kiev might drop its application for NATO membership — comments which he promptly backtracked on.
Ukraine has built up troop deployments near the self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, launching aggressive drone incursions into what the breakaway governments fear is preparation for a new offensive in breach of the Minsk accords.
Heappey also acknowledged that the risk of war between the nuclear powers made Western military intervention in Ukraine unthinkable.
"We must be crystal clear how volatile the Euro-Atlantic security situation is right now", he stressed. "Clarity in our message is essential so that we minimise the risk of miscalculation and escalation".

"The consequences of the US, UK, or any other NATO country becoming embroiled in Ukraine are catastrophic", Heappey wrote. "We are already standing on the precipice of the greatest humanitarian challenge this continent has experienced since the Balkans in the mid-1990s. One misstep risks it being the worst since 1945".

Flags of member nations flap in the wind outside NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.02.2022
Kremlin: Ukraine's Rejection of Idea of Joining NATO Would Be Step Towards Stability
Heappey's comments stand in contrast to the sabre-rattling by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on her trip to Moscow last Thursday to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Truss repeated US claims — which Moscow has dismissed as propaganda — that the Russian Army has amassed "over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border". Meanwhile, Downing Street has insisted that Ukraine has a "right" to join NATO.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Heappey's boss, sounded fewer bellicose notes than Truss' war-trumpet when he met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Saturday.
Wallace paid his respects at a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers of the Second World War and said that as a former serving officer himself, he did not wish to see more troops sent to their deaths.
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