Here’s a breakdown of how tensions in eastern Europe could impact Britain, and why.
Why is Russia threatening to invade?
First things first – it’s widely believed Russia wants to invade its European neighbour, Ukraine. Russia has positioned approximately 150,000 troops around the Ukrainian border, but is still denying it has any plans to invade.
Yet, most of the West still believe Putin is thinking about crossing over into Ukraine.
While there are a lot of complicated factors at play, it essentials boils down to a power play.
Russian president Vladimir Putin wants to assert his power over the neighbouring country of Ukraine because he believes they should both be under the same sphere of influence, as they were both part of the Soviet Union in the 20th Century.
He does not want Ukraine to shift closer to Europe and the West in general.
Ukraine wants the opposite – it aspires to be part of the EU and Nato (the North Atlantic Trade Organisation) rather than under Russia’s control and so is firmly resisting Putin’s threats.
It has also refused to drop its bid to join Nato, even though some believe that could placate Russia.
What’s this got to do with the UK?
The UK is on the other side of Europe to Ukraine and is no longer part of the EU – but it is still an integral member of Nato.
Nato has a strong partnership with Ukraine (even though the country is not an official member) so it’s not surprising prime minister Boris Johnson has also joined in with Western allies in calling for an immediate de-escalation from Putin.
The West has made it very clear that, in line with Nato values, it will back Ukraine in its fight for sovereignty.
In fact Johnson emphasised that this problem affects the whole of the continent, by describing Russia’s intimidation tactics as Europe’s “biggest security crisis” for decades.
As foreign secretary Liz Truss said this week: “The UK remains unwavering in our support for the hard-won peace, freedom and democratic progress that has been made since Ukraine’s independence.”
The government has also thrown doubt on Russian reports that some of its troops are withdrawing from the border and said repeatedly that it does not recognise Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea (part of Ukraine).
How would the UK respond to a Ukrainian invasion?
Johnson has made it clear he wants Russia to engage in meaningful talks as soon as possible, because “it’s far better to begin a discussion now than to have a catastrophe”.
No.10 has implied that, if Putin continues with his aggression towards Ukraine, it intends to start imposing sanctions on Russia.
The foreign secretary also warned this week that this could have far-reaching consequences. She said: “Whether you support Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine or you’re of wider significant to the Kremlin, we will have the power to sanction you. Nothing is off the table and there will be nowhere to hide.”
The UK has sent a few military personnel to the nearby area, too.
Around 350 Royal Marines from 45 Commando were sent to Poland this week – taking the total numbers of military personnel there up to 500 – as the two countries continue to work together to try and de-escalate the tensions around Ukraine.
They are likely to prioritise any emerging humanitarian crises there rather than participating in conflict.
Nato is unwilling to send troops into Ukraine itself although the UK has supplied around 2,000 anti-tank missiles to the country.
Johnson was asked this week if he would authorise the Army to support Ukraine if there was an invasion. He said: “We will consider what more we can conceivably offer.
“It’s possible, I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one. But I want to stress it would be an absolute disaster if it was to come to that and there would be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil.”
The prime minister did confirm that 1,000 more troops would be put on alert in the UK if Russia were to invade although Downing Street is likely to follow the lead set by Nato.
So what about the rest of Nato?
Nato has said it will listen to Russia’s concerns about wanting Ukraine not to join the organisation but its core values, of allowing each nation to choose its own path and defending all allies, will not be compromised.
Nato has also promised to block the Nord Stream 2 Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline if Russia goes any further.
Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz also warned: “It’s necessary for Russia to understand that a lot more could happen than they’ve perhaps calculated with themselves.”
Forces are on standby in eastern Europe, and Nato is working with Ukraine to modernise its forces and protect it against cyber attacks.
So just how likely is war?
It’s still unclear how likely an actual invasion is or if this is a political ploy from Putin.
Johnson said this week that he did not think Putin had made a decision about whether to act, but that the information on the prospect of an invasion was “grim”.
The ministry of defence also unveiled Putin’s suspected battle plan this week.
A Whitehall source told The Times this week: “He’s going to do it and it’s going to be horrendous.”
A No.10 spokesperson also pointed out: “All the information we have suggests Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine at any moment without further warning.”