WARSAW: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday he would lift defence spending to 2.5% of GDP to reach 87 billion pounds ($108 billion) a year by 2030, saying Britain could not be complacent when the world was at its most dangerous since the Cold War.

Sunak has been under pressure from his governing Conservative Party to boost defence spending more quickly after he argued he could do so only "as soon as economic conditions allow."

The rise, from around 2.32% of gross domestic product, will not only be cheered by his party before this year's election that the Conservatives are expected to lose, but could weaken potential leadership challengers who have championed defence.

It will also be welcomed by Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of the NATO military alliance, who has been calling on other members to meet their 2% defence spending commitments.

"In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent," Sunak said in a statement before a news conference with Stoltenberg. "As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values."

"Today is a turning point for European security and a landmark moment in the defence of the United Kingdom. It is a generational investment in British security and British prosperity, which makes us safer at home and stronger abroad."

Data confirms UK economy went into recession last year

The government said defence would get an additional 75 billion pounds over six years, making Britain the second-largest defence spender in NATO.

The announcement followed Sunak's pledge to increase Britain's military support for Ukraine by 500 million pounds to take its total for this financial year 3 billion pounds - a move welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Air defence

Earlier, talking to reporters travelling with him, Sunak said he was slightly late for his flight to the Polish capital Warsaw because he had spoken to Zelenskiy about the new package and Ukraine's need for more air defence systems.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly called for more air defence systems to protect Ukraine's people from increasing Russian bombardment, and Germany has spearheaded calls for members of the NATO military alliance and beyond to step up on deliveries.

Asked whether Britain was backing Germany's proposal to find more air defence systems, Sunak reiterated what Britain had already delivered, and said the new package - including 60 boats, more than 1,600 strike and air defence missiles and nearly 4 million rounds of ammunition - would also help Ukraine.

Britain has deployed the anti-air and anti-missile Sky Sabre system to Poland to help its defences.

"So I agree that air defence is one of the critical areas where Ukraine needs support. And indeed, actually I was on the phone with Zelenskiy this morning," Sunak told reporters.

"And he and I were talking about air defences, one of the many things that we were talking about," he said, adding he would discuss the issue with Stoltenberg, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and, on Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Zelenskiy welcomed the new package, saying on X: "Storm Shadow and other missiles, hundreds of armoured vehicles and watercraft, ammunition — all of this is needed on the battlefield."

Sunak repeated his argument that Britain had frequently been first to deliver weapons to Ukraine and called on other European countries to fulfil their NATO commitments.

"It's also right we do our bit and that's why it's important Europeans invest in their own security at the same time. That's what we've always done," Sunak said. "It was very welcome news over the weekend from the U.S. but that doesn't take away from the need for Europeans to invest in their security."

Sunak's visit to Poland and Germany is his first international trip for months and is aimed at showing his restive party he is still in command ahead of an election later this year.

Comments

200 characters