The country plans to send a task force of 20,000 service personnel to participate in NATO's Operation Steadfast Defender, accounting for nearly half of the 41,000 people overall who are expected to take part. The exercise, which is intended to practice repelling a Russian invasion, will include a multinational deployment of dozens of aircraft and warships. It has been described as one of the biggest NATO military drills to be held since the Cold War.
The troop deployment will include personnel from the Royal Air Force, Army and Navy, and it has prompted concerns in the U.K. that the move is a precursor to sending British troops to fight on the ground in Ukraine.
U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I can announce that U.K. will be sending some 20,000 personnel to take part in Exercise Steadfast Defender. It will see our military joining forces with counterparts from 30 NATO countries plus Sweden, providing vital reassurance against the Putin menace.”
At least 16,000 troops from the U.K. army will be based in Eastern Europe from February to June, according to the Independent, and they will bring tanks, helicopters, artillery and Special Operations Forces.
On Friday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as a deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said that if the U.K. deploys a military contingent to Ukraine, they will consider it a declaration of war against Russia.
He warned on the Telegram messaging app: “I hope that our eternal enemies - the arrogant British - understand that deploying an official military contingent to Ukraine would be a declaration of war against our country."
Britain has been one of Ukraine’s closest allies in the war with Russia, and they have committed to spending $3.2 billion during the next financial year to help their cause, which marks a rise of $255 million over their spending during the previous two years.
The money will be used to cover artillery ammunition, air defense, maritime security and long-range missiles. According to a statement from Sunak's office, it will provide Ukraine with the “largest ever commitment of drones.”
At a press conference, Sunak said: “Our opponents around the world believe that we have neither the patience nor resources for long wars, so waver now, and we embolden not just [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, but his allies in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.”
He also took the opportunity to urge his Western allies to continue supporting Ukraine, cautioning that a victory for Russia could embolden other authoritarian rulers.
Sunak also promised the U.K. will continue to support Ukraine, stating: "Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone. Putin might think that he can outlast us, but he is wrong. We stand with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes."
Not surprisingly, Ukrainian President Zelensky has been pressuring Western allies to reach even deeper in their pockets despite the billions of dollars’ worth of military aid that has already been sent their way. He recently visited Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in an attempt to get more support; they offered to provide more artillery shells, drones, missiles and howitzers.
Zelensky has been begging for more air defense systems to deal with aerial barrages from Russia, with more than 500 drones and missiles being fired at them between December 29 and January 2.
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