Nato chief confident UK will ‘lead by example’ on defence spending after meeting with Rishi Sunak
Adam Forrest. Nov 10
The UK is sending 1,000 surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine to boost its defence against the Russian invasion, defence secretary Ben Wallace has announced.
It comes as Vladimir Putin’s troops were ordered to pull out of occupied city of Kherson in the face of continued Ukrainian attacks.
The shipment of British missiles comes in response to requests from Kyiv more air defence capabilities, as Rishi Sunak vowed to support Ukraine against “Russian aggression”.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said he was “absolutely confident” the UK will continue to “lead by example” on defence spending – as he called on Nato allies and partners to do more.
“The United Kingdom has led by example over many years when it comes to… defence spending, spending more than 2 per cent of GDP on defence,” he told reporters outside No 10 after meeting Mr Sunak.
He added: “But of course in a more dangerous world we need to invest more in our defence, and I am absolutely confident that the United Kingdom will continue to lead by example.”
It follows Tory government squabbles over the commitment to spend 3 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade, as Mr Sunak looks to balance the books after the disastrous mini-Budget.
Mr Wallace told MPs last week that he would be “fighting for as much money as I can get” ahead of the 17 November autumn statement – but said he accepted that the 3 per cent target was only an “aspiration”.
Mr Stoltenberg praised Mr Sunak for the “strong support” the UK provides to Ukraine, after joining Mr Wallace on a visit to a Army camp in Kent where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained.
The Nato chief said Mr Putin had made “several huge mistakes” with his invasion, including underestimating Nato’s ability to support Ukraine.
“One was to underestimate the Ukrainians – their courage, their commitment to fight and protect their country. The other mistake he made was to underestimate Nato allies, partners, in our ability to support Ukraine,” he said.
The Nato chief said there are “always some voices that have a different opinion” on backing for Ukraine – but insisted that the “clear message” from the majority in the West was that ongoing support was necessary.
Mr Sunak described Nato as a “cornerstone of the UK’s security” and said the government remained “extremely committed to the alliance”.
More 1,900 Ukrainian recruits in the UK for training will soon return to their home country, boosted by extreme cold weather kits for the winter – including 25,000 set of clothing and 20,000 sleeping bags.
Mr Wallace told Ukrainian troops that Russia is “losing slowly” during his visit to training camp in Kent. “We’re going to continue to support Ukraine, to defend its sovereign territory against an illegal invasion, and we’ll just carry on doing it.”
The defence secretary said the extra air defence missiles would help Ukraine “counter the threat from illegal targeting of critical national infrastructure”.
Despite the withdrawal in Kherson, Russian forces continued to pound Ukrainian-held villages located along the Dnipro river, where civilians described life under fire as “Armageddon”.