James Cleverly urges Washington to go ‘further and faster’ with Ukraine

Foreign Secretary will tell allies in US capital that they must give Ukrainian forces ‘the tools to win the war’

IN WASHINGTON and ASSOCIATE EDITOR (DEFENCE)

17 January 2023 •

James Cleverly talks in Parliament

James Cleverly is set to urge Washington to go “further and faster” in backing Ukraine on his first visit to the US capital as Foreign Secretary.

In detailed talks with Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, Mr Cleverly will say that, with the right equipment, Kyiv can prevail against Moscow.

It comes after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and Kevin McCarthy, the new Speaker, was left beholden to hardliners in his own party who want to reduce the amount of US aid to Ukraine, and audit the funds allocated.

Mr Cleverly is also expected to offer reassurances to US officials over the Northern Ireland Protocol amid fears Joe Biden could cancel a putative visit to the UK in April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sources have confirmed the US president may not visit unless Brussels and London strike a deal by then on the Irish Sea border, leaving Mr Blinken to attend the celebrations instead.

Another option, according to US officials, might be for Mr Biden to visit Belfast and Dublin – but not London – if the situation remains unresolved.

Iran also on the agenda

In addition, Mr Cleverly will raise the issue of Iran following the execution of dual British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari, the former Iranian defence minister who was accused of spying for MI6.

The UK vowed more reprisals against Tehran’s “weakened and isolated regime” and Mr Cleverly said it would be “held to account”.

His trip is intended to demonstrate Rishi Sunak’s commitment to increasing the UK’s military and diplomatic efforts in Ukraine.

Mr Cleverly, who will go on to meet his Canadian counterpart Mélanie Joly in Toronto, said: “The UK, US and Canada always have each other’s backs when it counts, protecting the rules-based order for nearly 80 years.

“Today we stand united against Putin’s illegal war, and we will continue to use our uniquely strong defence and security ties to ensure that, in the end, the Ukrainian people will win.”

A spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary will stress to the two allies that now is the time to go further and faster in giving Ukraine the tools to win the war. He will underline that, with the right equipment, the Ukrainian people will prevail.”

It came as Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, announced a new package of British military aid for Kyiv, and promised “no loss of momentum from the international community” in 2023.

He said that Britain’s promise of a squadron of 14 Challenger 2 tanks, accompanied by recovery vehicles and long-range artillery, would “accelerate Ukraine’s success”.

Alongside the tanks and AS-90 artillery pieces, “hundreds” of precision-guided and air defence rockets will be sent, and £20million will be spent on drones.

Mr Wallace said it “means Ukraine can go from resisting to expelling Russian forces”.

Speaking in Parliament, he also appeared to make a thinly-veiled criticism of Germany’s reluctance to send Leopard II tanks to Ukraine.

He urged Berlin, as the manufacturer, to provide the necessary permissions to allow the other 14 nations using the vehicles to send them to help repel Russia’s assault.

Referring to the recent promise by France to send AMX-10 armoured vehicles to Ukraine, Mr Wallace said: “After discussion with the United States and our European allies, it is hoped that the example set by the French and us will allow those countries holding Leopards tanks to donate as well.

“I know there are a number of countries wanting to do the same. No-one is going it alone.”

The UK also announced it was sending more medical supplies to Ukraine.

That will include over 70 pallets of bandages, crutches, wheelchairs, tents for temporary treatment centres, and nearly 80 beds.

Related:

16 January 2023 •

Members of the media surround a British Army Challenger 2 main battle tank during the Finnish Army Arrow 22 training exercise

COMMENT

Britain is sending the Ukrainians the wrong tanks

Jordan has recently retired its fleet of around 400 British Challenger 1 tanks, enough to supply Ukraine with the entire fleet it needs

The Government has said that it will supply the Ukrainian armed forces with British main battle tanks in the form of the mighty Challenger 2. The logic is compelling: we have spare tanks and Ukraine needs armour for the upcoming spring offensive, when the biting Eastern European winter gives way to more favourable fighting conditions. What is less compelling, however, is the argument that we should give Kyiv Challenger 2.

The first problem is one of simple numbers. The Army currently fields 227 Challenger 2s, divided between three regiments, a training school, and platforms used as reserves or for parts. Ukraine’s defence minister, meanwhile, believes the country needs around 300 tanks. It does not take a mathematician to note that 227 is substantially less than 300, particularly given that nobody really wants to hand over Britain’s front-line units. Instead, the Government intends to give 14 of the 79 platforms due to be mothballed as part of the Challenger 3 upgrade entering service in 2027. A lot is riding on other countries giving tanks, too.

This brings us to the second problem: just because the tanks are mothballed, it doesn’t mean we won’t need them. Most of the existing Challenger 2 platforms will be required for maintenance throughout Challenger 3’s lifespan. The new elements of the Challenger 3 design are mainly in the turret and main gun; this gives a real advantage in maintenance, as most of the rest can be cannibalised from old Challenger 2 platforms when parts need replacing. It would be possible to circumvent this issue by purchasing our new fleet off the shelf, but that takes us to the third problem: the upgrade to Challenger 3 is set to cost £800 million. Buying new platforms would increase the cost significantly.

There are also real risks to operational security if British tanks fall into Russian hands. Each Challenger 2 is equipped with Dorchester armour – a classified build no other nation has access to – in addition to sensitive digitalised communications and sighting systems. Unless these systems are replaced, a difficult task, should a British tank be captured, classified British information intended for use in Challenger 3 would be in enemy hands. This is a threat too grave to bear.

This complexity – the initial retrofitting, the training of Ukrainian tank crews, finding routes for maintenance and sustenance – makes it difficult to view the export of the Challenger 2 as viable, even for the resourceful and battle-hardened Ukrainians. Instead, we should look to a smarter option. The Kingdom of Jordan has recently retired its fleet of around 400 British Challenger 1 tanks. This is enough to supply Ukraine with the entire fleet it needs, and the essential spares for battlefield maintenance, without compromising sensitive technologies. It would also be inordinately cheaper for the UK to buy them on behalf of Kyiv.

But the main benefit, again, is quantity, which retains a quality all its own. Realistically, any gift of Challenger 2s is likely to be too piecemeal to supply Ukraine with the support it really needs. But 400 British made Challenger 1s – long obsolete from British stocks and of no national security concern – would provide Ukraine with a ready-made tank division for the all-important spring offensive.


Robert Clark is the director of defence and security at Civitas. Prior to this he served in the British Army

7 comments

  1. Britain has excellent relations with Jordan. Hopefully the logistics are being worked out to enable those Challenger 1’s to get to Ukraine.
    That would be the proverbial game-changer.

      • The US sets the pace with light tanks like the Bradleys, which are well thought of. The U.K. sets the pace with MBT’s. But they need to go much further: send the Jordanian Challenger 1’s and a squadron of Tornadoes.
        The France contribution in monetary terms is still pathetically low: not even 25% of the U.K.

  2. Comment from Telegraph reader Keith Robinson: “Well did I tell you before when I was up?
    Anxiety was bringing me down.
    I’m tired of listening to you talking in rhymes.
    Twisting around to make me think you’re straight down the line.
    All you do to me is talk, talk…
    Cmon NATO /US, give Ukraine 300 tanks (10% of Leopards + Others from UK, France & US), and all the artillery, ammo they need. Crank it up boys, Putin needs a good old fashioned kicking.”

    Tom Frieling : “Please convince Biden to stop dithering about what weapons Putin may deem “acceptable” to send and get Ukraine EVERYTHING they need to repel Putin’s invaders.”

    A blindingly obvious Russian vermin troll “maria johnson” comments: “It is not UK taxpayer that us quite literally being bled to dearh. Ukraine a corrupt cpuntry run by a bunch of corrupt oligarchs. Cleverly stay out of this. Please do not presume to tell USA what to do.”

    Reply from Martin Teling: “The fact that trolls like maria johnsonski can try to take the moral high ground whilst russia continues to lie, cheat, steal, rape and murder is beyond breathtaking.
    These pathetic sub humans live in an alternative reality and one where words like ‘dearh’ and ‘cpuntry’ exist.
    Your country is just about to get a whole lot smaller and the civilised world will rejoice.”

    Another reply to the troll piece of excrement from Peter Clarke: “No. Ukrainian children are bleeding and dying because of Putin.
    How can you, with any conscience, watch as innocents are raped, tortured, maimed and killed when you have the means to stop it?
    How??”

  3. “In detailed talks with Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, Mr Cleverly will say that, with the right equipment, Kyiv can prevail against Moscow.”

    I’m sure that Washington knows precisely what Ukraine needs to win this war. However, there are some in the White House who need spines, gonads and guts to just do it. That is the core of the problem. The same goes for the kraut government in Berlin. Pussies all!

    • The Biden administration is always putting its cards on the table; ensuring that putler’s fears are assuaged. Lloyd Austin repeatedly says “America won’t be dragged into this war” and Biden is worse because he constantly gives assurances to Nato members but none to Ukraine. He could change that simply by starting that “our commitment to Budapest signatory Ukraine is identical to our commitment to Nato. We do NOT rule out direct intervention.”

      • “We do NOT rule out direct intervention.”
        Biden could’ve said just that to the evil runt. It doesn’t have to be true, but it would’ve made the asshole to think twice or thrice before attacking Ukraine. Biden is a complete fool. Afghanistan showed it.

What is your opinion?