Boris Johnson dilemma: Why is PM backing Ukraine in Russian gas pipeline row?

Russia fears: Poland and Ukraine could sparker wider conflict

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Russia has stationed tens of thousands of troops close to the border in what US intelligence believes will amount to an attempt to invade in the coming weeks, as well as the allegedly orchestrated migrant crisis taking place on the Poland-Belarus border. Ukraine has now claimed some 100,000 Russian troops have gathered at the border.

Mr Johnson said European nations need to choose between mainlining Russian gas and defending peace in Ukraine.

His words, contained in his pre-written Mansion House speech, appeared especially aimed at Germany, which has been working with Russia to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The Prime Minister said: “When we say that we support the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine that is not because we want to be adversarial to Russia, or that we want in some way strategically to encircle or undermine that great country.

“And never let it be forgotten, in this season of remembrance, that it was Russian blood that enabled us to defeat Nazism.

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“It is because we have a commitment to democracy and freedom that is shared now across the vast mass of the European continent.

“And when our Polish friends asked for our help to deal with a contrived crisis on their border with Belarus, we were quick to respond.”

Mr Johnson also took aim at Europe for backing the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline.

The pipeline will run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is being proposed by Gazprom, a Russian energy company.

He said: “And we hope that our friends may recognise that a choice is shortly coming between mainlining ever more Russian hydrocarbons in giant new pipelines, and sticking up for Ukraine and championing the cause of peace and stability, let me put it that way.”

The outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed ahead with the pipeline despite opposition from the UK and the US.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said this week: “We are seeing a concerning situation at the border.

“We remain in unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will continue to support them in face of Russian hostility.”

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Why is the PM backing Ukraine?

Mr Johnson said in a press conference on Monday the UK would stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Europe to defend Ukraine against Russian forces.

His words echo that of other European leaders, with French President Emmanuel Macron telling Vladimir Putin in a call that France would “defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

The construction of Nord Stream 2 has been interpreted as a move that could undermine Ukraine as it gets transit fees from existing pipelines running through its land, which could be circumvented in the event of the second pipeline.

The UK has long been against the construction of a second gas line, believing it will make Europe too dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

Mr Johnson believes in backing the Nord Stream 2, it will let down Ukraine and make it, and the rest of Europe, more beholden to Russia’s expansionist tactics.

Mr Putin has already demonstrated his willingness to manipulate gas supplies and prices for geopolitical purposes – something the UK Government stands firmly against.

The Kremlin has denied it is planning an invasion of Ukraine but has provided no other explanation for why its troops have been deployed to the border.

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