LONDON — Boris Johnson is launching a fresh diplomatic offensive aimed at Europe’s Nordic and Baltic states as he tries to “get Russia to step back from the brink” of invading Ukraine, Downing Street said on Sunday.
The UK prime minister will travel to mainland Europe again later this week as he seeks to “cement and broaden the Western alliance,” No. 10 said in a statement. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who cut short a family holiday amid the “worsening situation,” will also meet counterparts in Brussels this week.
Transatlantic policymakers have placed an increased emphasis on defense arrangements across NATO’s eastern flank since Russia’s controversial annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Finland and Sweden are not members of the NATO alliance and are therefore not covered by its collective defense clause, but have been working with the military alliance to share more information and coordinate training and exercises.
“There is still a window of opportunity for de-escalation and diplomacy, and the prime minister will continue to work tirelessly alongside our allies to get Russia to step back from the brink,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
American officials have told POLITICO that intelligence suggests Russia could invade this Wednesday.
Johnson is receiving daily intelligence briefings on the build-up of Russian forces, no. 10 said. British forces who had been providing anti-tank missile training in Ukraine were due to leave this weekend.
The UK government on Friday urged all British nationals to leave Ukraine immediately while commercial means remain available. Only a core team of UK diplomats, including ambassador Melinda Simmons, remain.