Ukraine must have tools already to be victorious in repelling the Russian invasion and restoring its territorial integrity, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary said Tuesday.
“This is the rainy day” when stockpiles of ammunition and weapons held by Kyiv’s supporters need to brought to the fight, James Cleverly said at an Atlantic Council event. “We need to bring this fight to a conclusion” quickly.
He reiterated positions already announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on opening arsenals to back a strong Ukrainian counterattack.
“We have to keep looking at the opportunity to speed up the activity” of sending Ukraine weapons it needs to succeed in its counteroffensive, Cleverly said.
“There might not be a simple, quick breakthrough” this spring, he said. “We have to stick with them.”
Victory seeing Ukraine’s sovereignty restored and the country rebuilt, he said.
“Russia will need to play its part in paying for damages,” Cleverly said.
Although the United Kingdom acknowledges the U.S. large support in Ukraine aid, Cleverly noted that the United Kingdom was first to commit its Challenger main battle tanks to Kyiv, as well as armored personnel carriers and ammunition.
The United States has contributed more than $35 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the February 2022 unprovoked attack.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that London is considering sending long-range strike systems to Kyiv to assist in the counter-offensive. The capabilities of the system with ranges in excess of 200 miles closely match the United Kingdom’s air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
Cleverly did not directly answer questions about long-range weapons systems.
The United States announced another $1.2 billion in aid for Ukraine Tuesday. The aid, which includes munitions and air defense systems, will come from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the U.S. to contract out the technologies it plans to send.
The United Kingdom and the U.S. have also provided training, including teaching Ukrainian pilots to fly more modern European jet fighters, Cleverly said. But London doesn’t have F-16s in its fleet that could be sent to Kyiv.
So far the United States has deferred sending the fighters, saying Kyiv’s immediate needs are advanced close-in air defense systems to protect against drone and cruise missile attacks.
The American-built Patriot air defense system is designed to protect cities and bases and is already in place in Ukraine. It is credited with downing a hypersonic Russian cruise missile that was targeting Kyiv this week.
Cleverly added the United Kingdom is also training amphibious troops and other soldiers on new equipment being shipped to the battlefield. “We’ve got to evolve our support” as conditions change.
Looking ahead to this summer’s NATO meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, he said the United Kingdom is “definitely not closing the door” on Ukrainian membership. “The exact mechanism” of restoring Ukrainian territorial sovereignty and guaranteeing its safety “is open to discussion.”
China with its ambitions in the South China Sea and eventual control of Taiwan “will check to see [if Ukraine’s supporters] have the staying, the grit” to stay with Kyiv for more than 18 months, he said.
“If we don’t defend the principle [of the U.N. charter], the big will prey upon the weak,” Cleverly said.
Equally important is explaining to the public in the United states, the United Kingdom and other democracies why it is important to come to Ukraine’s aid. “We need to make that case” that spending money now means spending less in the future if aggression goes unchecked and larger wars follow.
“We can’t be lazy; we can’t be complacent” on Ukraine’s importance, he said.