Meanwhile defence minister James Heappey has downplayed the idea of British troops being sucked into fighting – while warning “thousands of lives” will be lost in any conflict, which one US State Department official has claimed to erupt “at any time”. Mr Ellwood, an ex-British Army officer and Tory MP for Bournemouth East, was speaking after reports of a Russian troops build-up, along with tanks, near the Ukrainian border.
He told Express.co.uk: “The situation’s now set for conflict. The talks in Brussels in Geneva have collapsed without conclusion.
“NATO clearly dismissed Putin’s ultimatum to withdraw NATO troops away from Eastern Europe.”
“A cyber attack has taken place and 100,000 troops are massed on the border, and have now been bolstered by Special Forces, field hospitals and all the other support assets required. We’re just waiting for Putin to give the green light.”
Acknowledging an invasion could be imminent, Mr Ellwood explained: “I am afraid we’ve missed the opportunity to prevent an invasion by placing NATO troops in Ukraine.
“This is part of a wider strategic vision of Putin advancing his sphere of influence to recoup what was lost with the demise of the Soviet Union.”
Mr Ellwood dismissed any suggestion of the conflict escalating into a nuclear exchange.
Nevertheless, he said: “We need to ask how we can bolster what’s left of Ukraine to make sure no further advances take place and how we are going to prevent the rise of authoritarianism.”
Referring to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s current domestic difficulties, Mr Ellwood added: “Britain’s distracted, America’s looking the other way, Germany’s retreated from the global stage and France is focusing on elections.
“There’s never been a moment when Putin will be stronger and the West will be weaker than right now.”
Asked on Times Radio about the possibility of British soldiers being sucked in on Wednesday, Armed Forces minister Mr Heappey said: “That is not a scenario that is remotely realistic.
“But Ukraine are our great allies and the purpose of my visit last week was to close off some extraordinary work done by my boss Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, who has gifted the Ukraine armed forces thousands of light anti-tank missiles.”
Mr Heappey said there was a “grave possibility” of Mr Putin launching into what he said would be an “extraordinarily stupid” conflict.
He warned: “What stands in front of us, what could be weeks away, is the first peer-on-peer, industrialised, digitised, top-tier army against top-tier army war that’s been on this continent for generations.”
Stressing Ukraine’s willingness to fight for “every inch of their country”, Mr Heappey said: “Tens of thousands of people could die.
“This is not something that people in Moscow should believe to be bloodless. This is not something that the rest of the world should stand by and ignore.”
Mr Heappey’s remarks came after Mr Johnson told his Cabinet that Russian President Vladimir Putin “must not be allowed to rewrite the rules” of international relations as tensions continue to mount.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Switzerland on Friday to try to find a diplomatic solution.
However, a senior State Department official told reporters: “We are now at a point where Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine at any time.”