In a move seen as controversial and provocative, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says the UK intends to send modern weaponry to Moldova in eastern Europe to protect the country from the threat of a Russian “invasion".
The top British diplomat made the remarks in an interview with the Telegraph on Friday, saying talks were underway between London and its allies to make sure that Moldova's defenses could deter any future attack, amid fears that the country, which borders Ukraine to the southwest, could be Russia’s next target.
"I would want to see Moldova equipped to NATO standard. This is a discussion we're having with our allies," she told the British newspaper.
"Putin has been absolutely clear about his ambitions to create a greater Russia. And just because his attempts to take Kyiv weren't successful doesn't mean he's abandoned those ambitions."
Moldova is not a member of the NATO military alliance, although it did apply to join the European Union less than two weeks after the Kremlin launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February.
If the plan moves forward, NATO members would provide modern weaponry to Moldova, replacing its Soviet-era equipment, and will train soldiers on how to use it, according to reports.
The British foreign secretary also said the primary goal for the UK is Ukraine and bringing its army to the standards of the Western military alliance.
The United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Germany have held talks about whether to sign a security guarantee for Ukraine to continue providing weaponry and support in the long run.
"What we’re working on at the moment is a joint commission with Ukraine and Poland on upgrading Ukrainian defenses to NATO standard," Truss said. "So we will scope out what that looks like, what the Ukrainians need. The question then is how do you maintain that over time?"
She also said that Britain and its allies are working on how to ensure that Ukraine is permanently able to defend itself and how they guarantee that happens.
"And that also applies to other vulnerable states such as Moldova. Because again, the threat is broader from Russia, we also need to make sure that they are equipped to NATA standards."
Russia launched the military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Western countries have responded to the Russian military operation by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions against Russia.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that such a flow of weapons to Kiev will only prolong the war.