Ukraine ‘Not a NATO Conflict, Will Not Become One,’ UK’s Boris Johnson Says
10:49 GMT 06.03.2022 (Updated: 12:13 GMT 06.03.2022)
Johnson’s remarks come in the wake of a warning by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss late last month that the crisis in Ukraine “could end up” being a conflict between the “freedom and democracy”-loving nations of the Western alliance and Russia. Her comments prompted Moscow to place its strategic nuclear forces on heightened alert.
The crisis in Ukraine will not be allowed to escalate into a conflict involving NATO, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated.
“This is not a NATO conflict, and it will not become one. No ally has sent combat troops to Ukraine. We have no hostility toward the Russian people, and we have no desire to impugn a great nation and a world power,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Sunday.
“The truth is that Ukraine has no serious prospect of NATO membership in the near future – and we were ready to respond to Russia’s stated security concerns through negotiation,” the prime minister added.
Johnson’s commentary doesn’t square with remarks made by NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in January – when he announced that Ukraine’s entry into the Western bloc was already a done deal, and merely a matter of timing. That same month, the United States and NATO formally rejected security proposals tabled by Russia beseeching Washington and the bloc to keep Ukrainian membership in the bloc off the agenda, in accordance with the principles of the indivisibility of security in Europe outlined by the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe Astana Declaration of 2010.
In his op-ed, Johnson expressed confidence that his “near-daily conversations” with Ukraine’s president were providing Ukrainians “with some comfort in their hour of need.” He also expressed praise for US President Joe Biden and his “great leadership, consulting and convening allies, exposing the lie that America’s commitment to Europe is somehow diminished.”
The prime minister expressed pride in designating Russia as “the most acute security threat” to the UK in 2021, and in the government’s decision to ramp up defence spending to its highest levels “since the end of the Cold War” the same year. Johnson also patted himself on the back for increasing arms deliveries to Ukraine ahead of the current crisis, and boasted that the new AUKUS security alliance agreed last year was a demonstration of “our shared resolve to meet the challenges we face in the Indo-Pacific.”
The prime minister promised that going forward, the UK effort would include additional supply of weapons to Ukraine, further sanctions against Russia, and renewed efforts to “strengthen Euro-Atlantic security,” including “not only bolstering NATO’s eastern flank but also supporting non-NATO European countries that are potentially at risk,” including Moldova, Georgia and the western Balkans.
The US and its NATO allies committed nearly $3 billion in arms aid to Ukraine before the escalation of the crisis into a full-blown Russian military operation in the country last month and committed to send over $800 million more since then. The UK announced plans to supply Kiev with “light anti-armour defensive weapons systems” in January, and in recent days has promised to up its weapons “and non-lethal aid.”
Russia began a military operation President Putin said was aimed at “demilitarising and denazifying” Ukraine on 24 February. The operation commenced after Moscow’s newly-recognized Donbass republic allies formally asked Russia for assistance amid non-stop Ukrainian shelling, sniper and sabotage attacks.