NATO must ensure Putin faces ‘enormous cost’ if he expands invasion of Ukraine, warns Royal Navy chief

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NATO must ensure Vladimir Putin suffers a “huge personal cost” if he dares to expand his Ukrainian invasion to other countries, the head of the Royal Navy has warned.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, the first sea lord, said it was essential for NATO countries to “contain” the war in Ukraine so that it does not “go away from us”.

His warning comes amid growing fears that Putin will expand his invasion into the separatist region of Moldova in Transnistria, an unrecognized strip of land backed by Moscow and bordering southwestern Ukraine.

There are also fears of Russian interference in Sweden after the country announced it was considering applying for NATO membership, prompting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to say the alliance could strengthen its presence in the country to protect it from any aggression.

Sir Ben told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The lessons of history would say we are in a particularly fragile moment right now.

‘[This] that’s why it’s really important that even if the support we’re giving to Ukraine right now is to enable them, we have to show a strong and resilient posture on the rest of the line of contact with Russia , wherever it is, at sea, in the air, the rest of the NATO landmass, so that Mr. Putin understands that this is not something he can expand without a huge cost to him and Russia.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, the first sea lord, says it is essential for NATO countries to ‘contain’ the war in Ukraine so it doesn’t ‘get away from us’

Sir Ben, who led British airlifts of British citizens and Afghans from Kabul after the Taliban takeover, accused Putin of “flagrant misconduct” against Ukraine.

The first sea lord urged the UK to continue sending arms to Ukraine so that its troops could “defend their territory, their homeland and their people”.

But Sir Ben said while the aim was for Putin to ‘abstain’ from his invasion, he admitted the outcome was ‘a long way off at the moment’.

Sir Ben also said it was imperative that NATO nations’ navies remain a deterrent position to “counter Putin’s actions and deter him from doing more”.

“We pose a threat,” the Navy chief said. “The Russians did try to prevent any other ships from operating in the northern part of the Black Sea, and the Ukrainians demonstrated that this was not something they could do freely.”

Sir Ben warned that ‘ships become worthy targets’ in war and the UK must be ready for any attack.

“It requires our posture to be correct, our capabilities to be properly aligned, to modernize and adapt to see what others can do and what technology opportunities give us,” he said.

Sir Ben, who led the British airlift of British citizens and Afghans from Kabul after the Taliban takeover, accused Putin of committing a

Sir Ben, who led British airlifts of British citizens and Afghans from Kabul after the Taliban takeover, accused Putin of “flagrant misconduct” against Ukraine. Pictured: Anna Shevchenko, 35, waters the few surviving flowers in the garden of her destroyed home in Irpin, near kyiv, on Tuesday

His comments come as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance must guarantee Sweden’s security if it decides to join NATO.

“We have to remember that from the moment Sweden potentially applies, and NATO says they want Sweden to join, there is a very strong NATO obligation to guarantee the security of Sweden,” Stoltenberg told Swedish public television SVT.

“We have several ways to do this, among other things with an increased NATO presence and NATO forces around Sweden and the Baltic Sea,” he said.

In a historic turnaround triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland – two militarily non-aligned countries – are considering applying for NATO membership.

A decision is expected in each country in the coming days or weeks.

An enlargement of the Atlantic alliance is likely to irritate Moscow, which has warned of “consequences” if Nordic neighbors apply.

One of the most pressing issues is the security of the two countries during an application process – which can take months as each of NATO’s 30 member states must ratify any bid for membership.

Only full members benefit from NATO’s Article 5, its fundamental principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all members.

Sir Ben said NATO must ensure that Vladimir Putin suffers a

Sir Ben said NATO must ensure Vladimir Putin suffers a ‘huge personal cost’ if he dares to expand his Ukrainian invasion to other countries

In historic U-turn sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland - two militarily non-aligned countries - are considering applying for NATO membership

In historic U-turn sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland – two militarily non-aligned countries – are considering applying for NATO membership

Stockholm and Helsinki have held talks with several major NATO powers in recent weeks to obtain “security guarantees”.

On Thursday, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said discussions had already taken place with France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, and stressed that a speedy ratification process would be “the best guarantee of security”.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who concluded a visit to Canada and the United States on Thursday, said in Washington on Tuesday that the United States was ready to provide “different types of security guarantees” during the process of candidacy.

A spokesman for the United States National Security Council said he was “confident” that a solution could be found.

There are also fears that Russia could expand its war and invade the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria.

Russia has been accused of planning hybrid attacks to ‘destabilize’ the region and Moldova’s pro-Western government after a series of explosions, there were fears that Russia would launch false flag attacks to justify the invasion of Transnistria.

Ukrainian and Moldovan officials have warned that Russia is planning hybrid attacks in Moldova that would combine both conventional attacks and new forms of warfare as well as terrorist acts, including indiscriminate violence and criminal disorder.

Last month, Kremlin military chief Rustam Minnekayev said Russia was seeking control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Transnistria, “where there have been instances of oppression of the Russian-speaking population”.

Transnistria, a strip of land of about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to the separatists.

Transnistria, a strip of land of about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to the separatists.

It has sparked growing concern in the small European nation of 3.5 million people that they will be drawn into the war. If they were, it would put pressure on the West to intervene given the country’s close relationship with NATO and EU member Romania.

Transnistria, a strip of land of about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to the separatists.

An estimated 1,500 Russian troops are permanently stationed in Transnistria, but there are fears the region could be used as a launching pad for further attacks on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian General Staff yesterday noted Russian efforts to stir up tensions in Transnistria.

The Russian army is “carrying out troop regroupings in certain areas, taking measures to replenish reserves” and “trying to improve the tactical position of its units”, the general staff said.

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