British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Ukraine on Friday promising more than $3 billion in military support including long-range missiles, ammunition and thousands of drones, in the country’s largest annual commitment to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
The U.K. also signed a 10-year bilateral security deal with Ukraine, providing a much-needed show of Western support, with aid packages stalled in the U.S. and the EU. The deal will formalize intelligence sharing, military training, and defense industrial cooperation.
“This day went down in history,” President Volodmyr Zelenskyy said, praising the UK for being the first G7 country to sign a security deal with Ukraine. Sunak also promised $22 million in humanitarian aid and committed the U.K. to offering “swift and sustained” help in the event of another attack by Russia in the future.
British support comes as uncertainty swirls around EU and US aid
The U.K.’s funding pledge is not enough to bridge the dire shortfall in Ukraine’s war chest, as more than $100 billion in aid from the U.S. and EU remains held up by political infighting. “The real problem at the moment is that there is no substitute for U.S. support,” defense think-tank expert Neil Melvin said. “Whatever the UK is able to give, if this money doesn’t come through Congress, then Ukrainians are really going to be in great difficulty.” U.S. aid has “ground to a halt” pending more funding from Congress, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, while in Europe, Brussels is contemplating giving in to some of Hungary’s demands in exchange for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dropping his veto on a $55 million package, the Financial Times reported. Ukraine’s foreign minister has warned that there is no “plan B” for managing the war if more Western aid does not come, but said Ukraine will keep fighting with the resources it has.
Security package fails to future-proof Ukraine aid
Ukrainian officials hailed Sunak’s aid pledge for “sending the right signal,” with Downing Street saying that the package would be a first step in developing “an unshakeable hundred-year partnership between Ukraine and the U.K.”
However the British prime minister stopped short of a multi-year financial commitment, which some U.K. ministers and senior military figures had pushed for, believing it would send stronger signals to Moscow of Britain’s support, the BBC reported. Given rising skepticism about aid to Ukraine across the West, support for Kyiv should be “future-proofed as much as possible” through funding with a longer time horizon, the FT’s editorial board argued last year.
Aid pledge comes as UK slips down the ranks of Ukraine supporters
The U.K. has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit in the early months of the war made Johnson a cult celebrity in the country, with a street in Southern Ukraine and a Ukrainian dark beer named after the former British premier. Britain has provided increasingly sophisticated weapons systems to Kyiv, “arguably providing the impetus for its allies to follow suit”, a U.K. defense analyst wrote for the Wilson Center. But while the U.K. has been one of the biggest single-country Ukraine funders, it ranks only 27th in terms of support to Ukraine as a proportion of GDP, according to the Kiel Institute’s tracker, which was last updated in October.