Keir Starmer urges NATO to ‘unite’ to 'Trump-proof Ukraine aid' ahead of US election

10 July 2024, 06:03 | Updated: 10 July 2024, 08:27

Keir Starmer has flown to the NATO summit
Keir Starmer has flown to the NATO summit. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

NATO must show “real unity” ahead of the US election in a bid to see off any threats from Donald Trump to Ukraine funding, Keir Starmer has said.

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The PM urged allies to rally around and lock in support as he flew into the NATO 75th anniversary summit on Wednesday.

And he insisted it was vital to show the largest group of nations together to go above and beyond for support for the war-torn nation.

More aid from nations across the world is expected to be promised at this week’s summit - where President Zelenskyy will be in attendance.

The UK has vowed a fresh package of aid within 100 days as they increase ammunition, missiles and other aid.

Read more: Keir Starmer to kick back defence spending decision at NATO summit in first foreign visit as Prime Minister

Read more: Biden declares Ukraine 'can and will' stop Putin as he confirms NATO will send 'dozens' of air defence systems to Kyiv

Follow the NATO summit on LBC
Follow the NATO summit on LBC. Picture: LBC

But Donald Trump has cast doubt on how much cash should be spent on the war.

Sir Keir was grilled on how NATO countries could best “Trump-proof” aid for Ukraine if the former President wins back the keys to the White House in November.

He replied: “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.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria board a plane to attend the NATO summit
Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria board a plane to attend the NATO summit. Picture: Alamy

“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 back-up strategy."

Heads of state pose for a group photo during the NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event
Heads of state pose for a group photo during the NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event. Picture: Getty

The PM will today have his first meetings with US President Joe Biden - who has just announced more air-defence missiles for Ukraine in collaboration with several other nations.

America will donate additional Patriot batteries alongside Germany and Romania, and the Netherlands an Italy will donate components too.

More details of the UK’s package is expected later this week.

Speaking to reporters on the way to Washington DC, the PM:

  • Slammed the “appalling” Russian strike on a Ukrainian hospital - but declined to say it was a war crime
  • Insisted it was up to Ukraine how they used Storm Shadow missiles - even if they wanted to strike military targets inside Russia
  • Promised to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence but declined to put a date on whether that would happen within five years
  • Said he hoped his defence review would report back within the first year on the threats facing the nation
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on Tuesday
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

The Prime Minister hit out at the “absolutely shocking, appalling attack” on a children’s hospital in Ukraine earlier this week - but stopped short of saying it was a war crime, insisting that was a “matter for others in due course”.

Sir Keir said it was everyone’s “duty” to condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

He said his message to tyrant Vladimir Putin was that “this NATO summit should be seen as a clear and united resolve by NATO allies and others to stand with Ukraine, and stand up to Russian aggression.”

The new PM said the summit would be “a very clear statement of resolve” and would serve as a “tragic backdrop” to vital meetings in the days ahead.

It would “strengthen the resolve” of allies to step up and do whatever was possible to help, he insisted.

Sir Keir also that he still backed the Ukrainians to strike military targets inside of Russia with Storm Shadows or other missiles provided by Britain and other allies - as long as it was used for defence.

Sir Keir said: “Yes - 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.”

‘Rearm, retool, get serious...’: ex-Nato spokesman's advice to Britain

The PM today announced he would launch a new strategic review of Britain’s threats - but again refused to say when we would spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence.

He dodged questions on whether it would come in the next five years, and would only say it’s “subject to our fiscal rules”.

He played down the promise - saying there were “other really important” parts of our defence and support for Ukraine and NATO.

The PM added: “the 2.5 per cent is a very important commitment. It is not the only commitment and one of the things we are emphasising as we go to this summit is that the contribution of the UK to Nato is unique in Europe in terms of the capability we are putting in, the deployment and our determination to use this summit to make progress on further support for Ukraine.

“So the 2. 5 per cent is an important commitment but there are other really important aspects in the support we are putting in from Ukraine as well as to NATO.”

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