Ex-U.K. Defense Chief Urges Leaders To Avoid Ukraine Escalation

With war looming in Ukraine, former British Defense Secretary Des Browne urged world leaders to fulfill "a shared responsibility to work together to mitigate the risks" as their predecessors did in the mid-1980s when the East-West rivalry heightened under the shadow of nuclear risk.

"We are at a critical moment in Euro-Atlantic security," Browne said to Kyodo News in a recent written interview. "Relations among States comprising the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain dangerously adversarial."

"For too long, the risk of an accident, mistake or miscalculation leading to broader conflict, including nuclear use, has loomed over all of us. Unfortunately...the threat of war appears all too real. It is with us now, and could persist for some time," said Browne, who served as British defense chief from 2006 to 2008.

Asked about the strategic intention of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has amassed forces along the border with Ukraine and the Belarus-Ukraine border, Browne responded, "Russia's intentions remain clouded, but Russia's capabilities are clear."

"Countries rarely deploy these capabilities at this level of readiness without a political, military purpose. Russia may see these deployments and exercises as a means of supporting their diplomatic demands, or they may have every intention of using them in Ukraine. We simply don't know."

He added, however, the assembled forces are "capable of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine."

In 2013, a year before Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and intervened in Eastern Ukraine, a group of over 30 former senior political and military leaders as well as experts in the Euro-Atlantic area, including Browne, warned of the need to avoid a crisis.

"Euro-Atlantic security must be improved or the existing risks will grow. The window for building trust, confidence and mutual security will not remain open indefinitely," they wrote in a report published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank where Browne now serves as vice chair.

Source: Kyodo News

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