Russia’s president and the Prime Minister are due to discuss the eastern European country by phone on Wednesday evening. The Kremlin has said the Russian leader was ready to talk to anyone about the crisis, including the “utterly confused”.
Mr Johnson accused Mr Putin of holding a gun to Ukraine’s head in a bid to bully the West into redrawing the post-Cold War security map of Europe during a visit to Kiev on Tuesday.
Downing Street confirmed on Wednesday it has a package of sanctions ready that will “severely” hurt Russia’s economy should Moscow order troops across the Ukrainian border. Russia denies it is planning an attack.
Britain has sought to undercut Moscow’s manoeuvring by releasing intelligence suggesting Russian security agencies were trying to replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last week Britain would continue to expose Russia’s playbook, including false-flagged operations, disinformation and cyberattacks.
Since Brexit, London has brought into play its Magnitsky sanctions which allow the Government to stop certain people from entering the UK, channelling money through British banks or profiting from the economy. It demonstrates how Britain can act differently on the world stage now it is out of the EU.
Britain’s efforts to demonstrate its agile, post-Brexit diplomacy have been welcomed by US statesmen with former American ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, tweeting: “New UK sanctions legislation, if approved, might be a major Brexit upside if more flexible than current restrictive EU sanctions rules.”
London has a record of calling out Russian aggression, including in the wake of the attempted murder of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.
Neil Melvin, Director for International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told POLITICO the tactic has since stepped up a gear: “About 18 months ago, the UK made a decision that it wouldn’t just be about defending the rules-based order but that it would move into active deterrence, pushing into Russian space, being unpredictable.
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“The UK feels now that actually combating Russia requires an active deterrence policy. The EU foreign security policy is about reacting to things that have already happened. It really struggles to deter.”
Former CIA senior operations officer, Douglas London, told POLITICO it would be useful for the US to have a close ally calling out the Russians by disclosing intelligence.
However, the author of The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence added that doing so runs the risk of exposing sources and assets.
He explained: “It shouldn’t be done frivolously, because it doesn’t matter how you declassify something, you’re giving your opposition an advantage.
“The Russians will be looking for how the information was collected so will investigate where it might have leaked from: an agent, technical collection or mishandling.”
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Speaking at a press conference in Kiev, he said: “It is much easier to face Russian aggression when you have the support from friends.”
He added: “I have full trust in some of our partners and the United Kingdom is one of them.”
Tory MPs and foreign policy analysts also welcome the Government’s uncompromising approach towards Moscow.
Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Moscow, told POLITICO: “There was a period when [French President Emmanuel] Macron was meeting up with Putin and being very sympathetic to him, in terms of presentation anyway.
“When Boris Johnson became foreign secretary, it took him one visit to Moscow to realise that this was not a profitable approach for us to take.”
He added that on the continent, Western allies, including France, argue that such matters are best dealt with privately.