LONDON — British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is due to visit Moscow later this week as London steps up its efforts to prevent a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops.
Wallace started the week by meeting his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in London on Feb. 7 to discuss the deteriorating situation and is expected to end the week in Moscow for talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also due to travel to Moscow for talks with her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on February 10, although the visit is supposed to be separate from Wallace’s trip.
Britain’s defense secretary will add the Russian capital to a list of visits that have seen him shuttle between London, the Netherlands, NATO headquarters, Germany, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia in recent weeks as tensions on the Ukrainian border rise with Moscow continuing its construction. -up troops and weapons.
Wallace initially invited Shoigu to London for discussions of mutual security concerns and growing tensions caused by the more than 100,000 Russian troops sitting on the border with Ukraine.
Instead, in response, Shoigu invited Wallace to Moscow. For the moment, no one confirms the precise date of the visit.
A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense simply said that “later this week the Defense Secretary is expected to travel to Moscow to continue diplomatic discussions with his Russian counterpart.”
It will probably be a freezing meeting, and not because of the chilly temperatures in Moscow. Wallace has previously told the British Parliament that he is “not optimistic” about the outcome of the talks.
The Moscow talks will come at the end of a turbulent week for British efforts to deter the Russians from invading Ukraine.
The talks with fellow NATO allies Poland coincided with a February 7 op-ed in The Times newspaper by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlining plans to deploy new British forces to Eastern Europe. .
Wallace announced that Britain would send 350 more troops to Poland in the coming days. Royal Marines from 45 Commando will deploy to Poland to provide support for joint exercises, contingency planning and capacity building, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The British said the deployment is proposed on a bilateral basis and is not part of any NATO effort.
The British already have a light cavalry squadron of 150 men stationed in Poland.
In December, the UK deployed 140 military engineers in response to the migration crisis triggered on the border by the Belarusian government. The engineers are expected to stay until April.
Britain also has around 100 troops in Ukraine training.
The British recently delivered about 2,000 NLAW weapons to Ukraine to boost its anti-tank capabilities.
Writing in The Times, Johnson said Britain and its NATO allies had agreed to increase the number of troops on the alliance’s eastern flank.
For Britain, the move “would strengthen the UK-led NATO battlegroup in Estonia. We would also strengthen our contribution to Joint Expeditionary Force exercises,” he said.
The force is a British-led formation comprising units from 10 Scandinavian and Northern European countries.
Britain already has more than 900 troops stationed in Estonia.
Johnson also said the government was looking to strengthen the defense of nations in southeastern Europe.
The deployment of Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets and Royal Navy warships to the region is under consideration, the Prime Minister said.
He said there could be “no more convincing argument for the need for NATO than the sight of Russian tanks once again invading a European country”.
Andrew Chuter is the UK correspondent for Defense News.