Patrol ship HMS Trent will be joined by a £1bn Type 45 destroyer in the eastern Mediterranean, as Britain seeks to ramp up its military presence around Europe.
The news was confirmed today by the prime minister during a press conference with Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
Mr Johnson said Europe is in the grip of its deepest security crisis in decades as he warned a Russian invasion would result in ‘serious bloodshed’.
Russia has insisted it has no plans to invade but the Nato alliance is alarmed by the build-up of more than 100,000 troops on the borders with Ukraine, as well as six assault ships in the Black Sea.
Asked at the press conference in Brussels if he could authorise military support to an insurgency in Ukraine in the event of an invasion, the PM said: ‘We will consider what more we can conceivably offer.
‘The Ukrainians are well prepared, there are things we’ve offered that they, in fact, don’t seem to need because they think they have them in enough numbers already.
‘It’s possible, I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one.
‘But I want to stress it would be an absolute disaster if it was to come to that and if there was to be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil.’
The past few days have seen diplomats – including Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss – criss-crossing Europe in a desperate attempt to ‘de-escalate’ the political powder keg brewing on the borders of Ukraine.
However, 1,000 British troops have been put on standby in case of a humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe if the current Russian military build-up leads to war, Downing Street said.Speaking this morning in Brussels, Mr Johnson said the intelligence on the prospect of an invasion was ‘grim’ but he did not believe Vladimir Putin had yet decided on whether to act.
‘I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed,’ he said.
‘Our intelligence, I’m afraid to say, remains grim. We’re seeing the massing of huge numbers of tactical battalion groups on the border with Ukraine.
‘This is probably the most dangerous moment in the course of the next few days in what is the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades.’
Which Type 45 destroyer from Portsmouth that will be sent has not been revealed.
The £6bn fleet of state-of-the-art warships are touted as one of the best guided-missile vessels in the world. But, all six are currently in port, following the return of HMS Dragon to Portsmouth earlier this week.
Each destroyer has a crew of about 280 sailors, while HMS Trent can accommodate up to 45 sailors and an embarked strike force of 50 Royal Marines.
Trent is currently forward-deployed to the Mediterranean and most recently completed a series of security operations off the coast of west Africa.
In June she was sent to the Black Sea and took part in defence exercises with Ukrainian forces.
Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, acting as the flagship of Nato’s high-readiness response force, will be sent to Norway to join a major military drill next month.