Portsmouth MPs back defence minister’s plan to mobilise troops to eastern Europe

Defence minister Michael Fallon pictured during a visit to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower
Defence minister Michael Fallon pictured during a visit to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower
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  • Former minister of Portsmouth meets EU defence chiefs in Brussels
  • It comes after Russia launched a latest wave of bombing raids on IS targets in Syria
  • MP from the area say this meeting is ‘crucial’ to the future of the region
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MP’S across Portsmouth are backing plans for the UK to send a small detachment of troops to eastern Europe amid rising tensions between Russia and the west.

At a summit of top EU defence ministers, Britain’s own defence minister Michael Fallon unveiled plans for the UK to deploy a company size detachment of about 100 personnel to Baltic states.

The announcement comes amid a background of escalating tensions between Moscow and the west after Russia launched a series of controversial bombing raids in Syria.

Portsmouth North MP and armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt said: ‘Nato and the principles it operates upon are absolutely critical to defence.

‘This is a key meeting today and I know many people in our city are following these events with concern.’

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond agreed.

However, she raised her concerns over Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s intentions in bombing supposed Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria.

‘I think it’s very concerning and this is one of the reasons why we need a strong defence force because we can see Russia is starting to try and play on the world stage again. That’s something we have to keep a careful eye on,’ she said.

She said the move by the Russia premier was a ‘clear power play’ and backing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

‘He has always been a big threat to the west,’ Mrs Drummond added.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage

‘He has wanted Russia to go back to its old Soviet Union days and be the great Russia that he wants it to be.’

Mrs Drummond was in favour of sending British forces into Baltic member states and added: ‘This will prove we are looking after their interests and will also prove to the Russians that we will not abandon our friends in the European Union and in Nato.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage agreed, saying the UK has ‘a significant role to play in world affairs’ and that today’s meeting demonstrates the nation is ‘committed to working closely’ with allies on key issues including Ukraine and Syria.

‘In recent days, Russia’s attacks in Syria have made the current situation even more perilous and I am confident that our defence secretary and his Nato counterparts will today put pressure on president Putin to respect Nato’s rules,’ she added.

Havant MP Alan Mak, said the UK could play an ‘important role in responding to Russian aggression’ and that Britain, as a founding nation of Nato, supported democracy across the globe.

He added: ‘Russian involvement in Syria is deeply concerning, especially given reports of their actions causing civilian casualties.

‘This may fuel more extremism and radicalisation and play into the hands of Isil.’

George Hollingbery, MP for Meon Valley, felt Mr Putin’s intervention was not helpful.

However he said the west needed to find a way to work with Russia to get the best outcome for those millions of refugees forced from their homes.

Mr Hollingbery said: ‘We want Isil and Assad out of the way in that order; the Russians plainly have a different agenda that concentrates on maximising their influence in this volatile part of the world.

‘The entry of Russia into the arena has certainly created another level of complexity as to we how we take matters forward but I hope that it could also be an opportunity to make at least some progress in stabilising Syria.’

Mr Fallon, the former minister of Portsmouth, said mobilisation of UK troops would provide a ‘more persistent presence’ by Nato forces in eastern Europe.

‘This is further reassurance for our allies on the eastern flank of Nato - for the Baltic states and for Poland,’ he said.

‘That is part of our more persistent presence on the eastern side of Nato to respond to any further provocation and aggression.’

The troops, who are expected to be deployed in the coming months, will form part of a US/German-led training, evaluation and capacity-building mission in Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Speaking of the Russian air strikes in Syria, Fareham MP Suella Fernandes said: ‘Russia should not be propping up Assad and it is unclear whether the right targets are actually being hit, with many civilians being hurt in the process. This is damaging to the prospects of finding a long term solution.’

The MP, who has just returned from a trip to Canada visiting a British Army training unit there, said the time was right to bolster support of groups backed by the US in Syria.

‘We must now see a gear change in aggression towards the group of cowards labouring under the false name of Islamic State. We need an intelligence-led, multi-agency, multi-national man-hunting operation and I stand by the UK government’s approach to taking further military action is properly planned, with a clear strategy,’ she added.

‘As the debate mounts, I ask people to remember how they felt when they saw the picture of the dead Syrian Boy.

‘Remember him when they argue for us to change our commitment to giving away 0.7 per cent in GDP in foreign aid that the Prime Minister is rightly so proud of.

‘Remember him when things don’t go our way, and disgracefully opportunistic and fickle political opposition grows louder.

‘And let’s make every individual who chooses the cause and flag of so-called Islamic State – however removed their link – feel their blood run cold, every time they even think that they hear a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.’