May 30th, 2024

UK puts its defense industry on ‘war footing’ as it gives Ukraine $620 million in new military aid

By Vanessa Gera And Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press on April 23, 2024.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Tuesday that the country is putting its defense industry on a “war footing” by increasing defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade, amid NATO concerns of possible repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Sunak made the announcement to increase spending to well above the 2% target set by NATO during a visit to the Polish capital, Warsaw. It came on the heels of a new pledge to send arms worth 500 million pounds ($620 million) to Ukraine, including missiles, armored vehicles and ammunition.

He described the increased spending as the “biggest strengthening of our national defense for a generation.”

“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” he said at a news briefing alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests and our values.”

Sunak promised an extra 75 billion pounds ($93 billion) in defense spending over the next six years. The target of 2.5% of GDP spending was a re-commitment of a target set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022.

Sunak and his Treasury chief, Jeremy Hunt, had previously only said the 2.5% goal would be met when the economic conditions allow.

“We will put the U.K.’s own defense industry on a war footing,” Sunak said to an audience of British troops serving on NATO’s eastern front. “One of the central lessons of the war in Ukraine is that we need deeper stockpiles of munitions, and for industry to be able to replenish them more quickly.”

Under the new spending plan, Britain’s defense budget will increase immediately and then rise steadily to reach 87 billion pounds at the end the decade.

A decade ago, NATO leaders agreed to commit 2% of GDP to defense spending. Britain has spent above that over the past decade but never higher than 2.35% in 2020, according to NATO data.

U.K. official figures showed that defense spending last year was about 55.5 billion pounds. NATO data showed that this amounted to about 2.07% of the U.K.’s GDP, ahead of countries including France and Germany but behind Poland, the U.S., Estonia and others.

Sunak spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to confirm the assistance and “assure him of the U.K.’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s brutal and expansionist ambitions,” Sunak’s office said.

U.K. authorities said the new commitment to Ukraine included 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition, at a time when Ukraine is struggling to hold off advancing Russian forces on the eastern front line of the war, now in its third year.

The shipment will include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of some 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proved effective at hitting Russian targets.

Sunak said that Britain’s commitment “shows that Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone.”

However, Downing Street did not indicate whether the aid would be immediately available for delivery. Zelenskyy has pleaded for greater international assistance, warning that his country will lose the war without it.

The announcement came three days after the U.S. House of Representatives approved $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, as American lawmakers raced to deliver a fresh round of U.S. support to the war-torn ally. The Senate was expected to vote on the package Tuesday.

Ammunition shortages over the past six months have led Ukrainian military commanders to ration shells, a disadvantage that Russia has seized on this year – taking the city of Avdiivka and currently inching towards the town of Chasiv Yar, also in the eastern Donetsk region.

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Hui reported from London.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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