Russian war with Ukraine would be ‘catastrophic for the world’, says Boris Johnson

Prime minister was asked to respond to claims UK was in 'hybrid war' with Moscow

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London. UK Parliament / AFP
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A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “catastrophic for the world”, the British prime minister has said.

The comment came as Boris Johnson was asked how the government would respond to claims that the UK was in a “hybrid war” with Russia, which is reported to have troops lining up along the border with Ukraine.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin pointed to some of Russia's worrying activities including “forces massing on the Ukrainian border” and “interfering with western elections”.

“How much does the government understand that President [Vladimir] Putin is conducting a hybrid war against the West and how is the government responding to it?” asked the Harwich and North Essex MP.

“I am afraid he is absolutely right in what he says,” said Mr Johnson.

“There is a particular crisis that we face on the border with Ukraine where Russian troops have been massing for some time, as the House knows,” he added.

“I told President Putin on Monday what I think everybody in the G7 and more widely is agreed that if Russia were so rash and mad as to engage in an invasion of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, then there would be an extremely tough package of economic sanctions, mounted by our allies, mounted by the UK and our friends around the world.

“There would also, of course, be support for Ukraine, there would inevitably be the build-up of Nato forces in the periphery regions, and as I told President Putin, I believe any such action would be catastrophic not just for Russia and for Ukraine, but for the world.”

And when asked about rumours of a 10 per cent staff cut in the Foreign Office, Mr Johnson described them as “fake news”.

“Will he share the concern that I have about reports I have just got from the Foreign Office that there is a staff cut of 10 per cent across the board? How is this compatible with Global Britain?” asked Tom Tugendhat, Conservative Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.

“We are investing massively in overseas aid, we are investing massively — £10 billion a year in overseas aid,” the prime minister replied.

“This country is spending — I think we are the biggest spender in Europe overseas — £54bn. If you look at what [we] are doing on aid, on the Foreign Office, on defence, we are the biggest spender overseas, the biggest spender on overseas activity of any country in Europe.

“I know he is an expert on foreign affairs, but I can tell him that the recent information that has trickled into his ears is, I am assured by my friend, the foreign secretary, fake news.”

Updated: December 15, 2021, 9:22 PM