More than 1,300 British troops are to take part in a major Nato exercise in Eastern Europe in a further show of strength by the Western alliance in the face of Russia's continuing "destabilisation" of Ukraine. Speaking on a visit to Warsaw, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said that the UK would be sending a full battle group to take part in Exercise Black Eagle in Poland this autumn, in the largest British commitment to the region since 2008.
The announcement came as officials in Brussels continued to work on a new set of sanctions targeting Russia's access to European capital markets and trade in the defence sector and sensitive technologies ahead of a meeting of EU ambassadors tomorrow. US president Barack Obama is holding a conference call with David Cameron and other European leaders, including Germany's chancellor Angel Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, to discuss the next steps in the crisis following the downing of Flight MH17.
Mr Fallon, who is staging a joint visit to Poland with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, said that it was important to underline Nato's commitment to the collective security of its members at a time of heightened tensions in the region. "It is right that Nato members and partners demonstrate our commitment to the collective security of our allies in Eastern Europe," he said. "In particular, the commitment of a battle group to Exercise Black Eagle shows our sustained and substantial support to Nato's eastern border."
He said that the issue would also be high on the agenda when Nato leaders gather for their summit in Wales in September. "We have a strong opportunity at the Nato summit to discuss how we will continue our response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation of eastern Ukraine," he said. "The UK is playing a central role and we are not ruling out further enhancements."
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