Russia will pay the price if it invades Ukraine
WE are defending and promoting the frontiers of freedom around the world. That is why I am proud of our soldiers, who are doing great work in places like Estonia – where I joined them yesterday – flying the flag for liberty and democracy.
These troops are out there supporting Nato’s collective defence. Estonia, like its Baltic neighbours Lithuania and Latvia, is showing what freedom can deliver 30 years after the collapse of communism. Since being freed from Soviet rule, they have empowered individuals to succeed like never before.
Today, I am meeting our Nato allies in Riga, where we will show our determination to defend the frontiers of freedom. As part of the world’s greatest alliance, we stand united in our deep diplomatic and security ties which represent both the power and ideal of a network of liberty.
It is time for freedom-loving democracies to work closer together to realise this vision, with a strong Nato a core part. The UK is positioning itself at the heart of a global network of diplomatic and security partnerships, which extends beyond Nato to relationships like our vital Five Eyes intelligence alliance. We are going further and faster with partners – such as through the newly-agreed AUKUS partnership.
In the same spirit, we want to deepen our work with nations like Canada to cover regions such as the Arctic.
Together with our Nato allies, we are making clear that any incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a huge strategic mistake. The UK stands ready to use all diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal to avoid such an outcome and impose a high cost should it occur. We cannot, and will not, look the other way while Russia builds up troops on the borders of Ukraine and undermines neighbours like Georgia.
Russia is waging a campaign of economic coercion against European friends to undermine them by exploiting their reliance on its gas. We also cannot let Russia wash its hands of the shameful migrant crisis whipped up by Belarus, as it has a clear responsibility to play its part in ending the stalemate.
We are driven in doing so by a core principle of Nato – that it is a defensive alliance. Yet there are some who want to create a pretext for escalation by peddling the lie that Nato is provoking the Russians. They are falling for the Kremlin’s playbook, which we saw in use when Russia falsely claimed that its illegal annexation of Crimea was a response to Nato aggression.
The UK is leading by example in defence of the free world. We are the biggest European spenders on defence in Nato, joined by the likes of Estonia in spending more than 2 per cent of our gross domestic product on defence. More are joining us, but it is time for every Nato Ally to step up to the plate.
We are taking a lead in standing up for stability in the Western Balkans and resisting Russia’s efforts to exploit tensions in the region. We are showing diplomatic leadership, rallying partners around the world including through our G7 presidency - to challenge Russia’s irresponsible and destabilising behaviour.
That is how we delivered the largest collective expulsion of Russian diplomats in modern history after the Salisbury attack and moved decisively as the first European country to impose sanctions on Belarus.
Now, more than ever, we must be robust in championing our interests. There can be no greater interest than the future of freedom and democracy around the world. By forging closer ties, we can stand strong together in securing a freer, safer and more prosperous world.