Europe closer to war than at any point in 70 years, says UK minister – The Guardian

James Heappey says threat of Ukraine invasion is credible, in comments that appear to discount several wars in Europe
Last modified on Mon 14 Feb 2022 10.32 EST
Europe is closer to war than at any point over the past 70 years, a UK government minister has warned, as Russian troops amass on the borders of Ukraine and western leaders warn that an invasion could take place early this week.
The armed forces minister James Heappey told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he feared “we are closer than we’ve been on this continent” to war “for 70 years”.

The comments have caused confusion as there have been several wars in Europe over the past seven decades, including conflicts in which the UK played a military role, such as in Kosovo. Heappey also appeared to discount the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and the war that has been continuing in Ukraine for the past eight years.
Heappey said: “There’s 130,000 Russian troops around the borders of Ukraine, thousands more on amphibious shipping in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.
“All of the combat enablers are in place and my fear is that if all of this was just about a show to win leverage in diplomacy, that doesn’t require the logistics, the fuel, the medical supplies, the bridging assets, the unglamorous stuff that actually makes an invasion force credible, but doesn’t attract headlines. Yet all of that is now in place, too.”
Western leaders are mounting a final effort to negotiate diplomatic solutions after US intelligence said an attack could be imminent. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, will travel to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian officials and Boris Johnson said he would hold further talks with world leaders to bring Russia “back from the brink” of war.
His office did not say which world leaders Johnson was hoping to talk to or where he planned to travel, but it is understood he is keen to engage with Nordic and Baltic countries.
The Foreign Office has asked British citizens to leave the country while roads are still open and commercial airlines are still flying.
Heappey said there was “real urgency” to ongoing negotiations.

He said: “That is why this is a very serious time for the whole world, really, to come together and to send a message to Russia that this is behaviour that will not be accepted and that we stand behind Ukraine, and that the financial sanctions if he were to cross the border would be absolutely profound.”
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Heappey said that although he could not comment on whether parliament would be recalled from recess this week as this was a decision for the Speaker, the prime minister and opposition party leaders, if it happened it would offer an opportunity for MPs to show the UK’s resolve that if Russia crossed the border into Ukraine, it would encounter more than “febrile tactical responses”.
He said: “We’re entering into a period of sustained, strategic competition with Russia, in which we need to make sure that Putin’s wider aims beyond any territorial aim he may have in Ukraine, but his wider aims about Russia’s role in the world, his wider aims around constraining Nato, that he fails to achieve those and that Nato shows its resolve within its own borders.”


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