Starmer wants Nato to ‘lock in’ Trump proof military aid plan for Ukraine

Starmer wants Nato to ‘lock in’ Trump proof military aid plan for Ukraine

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Louise Thomas

Keir Starmer has indicated that he hopes the Nato summit in Washington will “Trump proof” aid to Ukraine to help it hold off Russia.

Speaking to journalists on his flight over to the summit in the USA, the new prime minister insisted that the defence and security of Britain and its allies will be his first priority.

But he again declined to give a timetable for when his “iron clad commitment” to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent will come into force.

His comments came as it emerged he had not been included in a discussion on air cover for Ukraine organised by the US government and including other allies.

But Sir Keir made it clear in the press briefing that he believes the summit over the next few days will “lock in” financial aid to Ukraine for its war effort.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria board a plane (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria board a plane (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

His statement came when asked if the allies could “Trump proof” any deal, with the threat that if Donald Trump retakes the White House he will pull the plug on money and weapons for the war.

He said: “On the question of how we show that commitment here at this summit given there is going to be an election in America later this year, I think it’s very important at this summit, and I think there is a real opportunity for real unity.

“It’s the largest group of Nato countries together with the additions that we’ve got, and the package that we are seeking to advance, it goes beyond the support that’s been put in before and will be locked in, I hope, at this Nato conference.

“That’s the financial package, that’s the military aid, and the strand that is the industrial strategy as well which is really important given what Russia is doing in this in terms of its industrial backup strategy.”

On defence spending, Sir Keir insisted he would prioritise it over everything else but any increase to get to 2.5 per cent will have to fall within his new government’s financial rules.

Trump wants to cut a deal to end the war in Ukraine
Trump wants to cut a deal to end the war in Ukraine (AP)

He refused to set a timetable to meet the target even declining to say it will happen by the time of the next election in 2029.

He said: “The defence and security of the country is the first priority of government. That is well understood by me. It’s been well understood by Labour governments, whenever we’ve had Labour governments. It is very well understood by this Labour government.

“It is the first priority. And that is why we are carrying out the strategic review. That is wider than the money question.”

Talking about the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) he will launch next week, he went on: “It is obviously looking at the challenges that we face, the capabilities and making sure that the two match. And the reason we’re carrying that out straightaway is that although, in fairness to Rishi Sunak and his government, they did share quite a lot of intelligence, particularly on Ukraine, there is certain intelligence they couldn’t share with us and that’s why I want to carry out this review straightaway.”

Sir Keir was repeatedly attacked by the Tories on defence with social media adverts claiming Putin would be pleased if he becomes prime minister.

While Mr Sunak committed to 2.5 per cent by 2030, Sir Keir has refused to give a date.

Sir Keir also arrives with a message for Putin as he meets other Nato leaders for the first time since the election.

He hinted that the bombing of a children’s hospital by Russia should be considered in the war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sir Keir said: “It is absolutely shocking, appalling attack on a hospital and I think that’s plain for all to see and nobody should be short on consent of that attack… in relation to the specific delegation of that attack that’s a matter for others in due course but it is shocking and appalling and it’s the duty of everyone to describe it in those terms.

“My message to President Putin is this – this Nato summit should be seen as a clear and united resolve by nato allies and others that are there at same time to stand with Ukraine and stand up to Russian aggression whether in Ukraine or whether elsewhere including cyber aggression and other ways in which Russia is aggressive around the world, a very clear statement of resolve.

“In relation to that particular attack it strengthens the resolve and that is a very important if tragic backdrop to this summit.”

He also made it clear he agreed with the Sunak government over giving Ukraine a free hand over using British war shadow missiles.

He said: “We’re obviously providing military aid, that is obviously to be used in accordance with international humanitarian law as you would expect. It is for defensive purposes but it is for Ukraine to decide how to deploy it for those defensive purposes. I’m not going to get into a discussion here as you’d imagine on targeting, that wouldn’t be appropriate, but that is the position.”

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