Sunak pledges UK’s long-term support for Ukraine

Western support for Kyiv will continue “for years”, the UK prime minister has said, in the latest sign that Ukraine’s western allies are prepared to support the country through a long conflict against Russia.

Rishi Sunak’s comments on Tuesday followed the G7 summit in Japan at the weekend where, he said, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was pictured standing “shoulder to shoulder” with G7 leaders in an image that “sent a very strong message”.

Speaking at a defence conference in London, Sunak said Russia’s strategy of “waiting it out . . . for people [in the west] to get tired, bored . . . is not going to work”.

“We are now leading a conversation with allies about what longer-term multilateral and bilateral security agreements we can put in place with Ukraine.”

Nato members are expected to hash out the shape of those agreements at a summit in Vilnius in July, where Baltic and eastern European countries such as Poland are expected to press for Ukraine to be admitted to the alliance.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, left, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the G7 summit © Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP

Such a move is not backed by a majority in Nato, which requires unanimity to approve membership bids. But western support for Kyiv has hardened, with increasing talk of providing western defence guarantees to Ukraine.

Recent military support has included US approval for F-16 fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine — something Kyiv has long requested — and a €2.7bn package of military aid from Germany.

The UK, the first country to provide Kyiv with modern battle tanks, also sent long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine ahead of its long-expected counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, western political support for Ukraine has included unexpectedly hawkish comments by France’s president Emmanuel Macron, who is widely viewed as one of the more dovish of Kyiv’s western backers.

“We need to remove any ambiguity,” Macron said on Saturday on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in Japan. “If making peace means turning the war in Ukraine into a frozen conflict it would a mistake by us all. Frozen conflict is tomorrow’s war.”

Sunak said western pledges of long-term support were designed both to give Ukraine confidence in its ability to defend itself and to deter Russia from continuing the war.

“The right and only course of action for [Russia] to do is to withdraw and stop the conflict,” Sunak said.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive had “every chance of success”, he added, saying it was “worth bearing in mind that what Ukraine has been doing over the past year is a [successful] counteroffensive”.

Turning to China and Beijing’s “epoch-defining challenge” to the west, Sunak said a “robust approach” was needed to protect certain “sensitive” technologies, such as semiconductors, dual-use equipment and quantum computing.

However, in remarks that are likely to raise eyebrows among China hawks in his Conservative party, who are pushing for a tougher line, Sunak warned against “a blanket descent into protectionism” by G7 countries against Beijing.

Additional reporting by Ben Hall in London


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