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World

Sunak, Scholz vow support for Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’

Published April 24, 2024
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) reacts as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on April 24, 2024. Photo: AFP
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) reacts as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on April 24, 2024. Photo: AFP

BERLIN: The leaders of Britain and Germany pledged Wednesday to back Ukraine in its war with Russia for “as long as it takes”, but the German chancellor doubled down on his refusal to deliver long-range Taurus missiles to Kyiv.

UK Premier Rishi Sunak was on his first trip to the German capital since becoming prime minister 18 months ago, after visiting Poland on Tuesday where he pledged additional money for Kyiv and announced plans to boost UK defence spending.

“We’re united on wanting to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Sunak told reporters, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression must “end in failure”.

“We’re defending the values that are incredibly important to us,” the UK leader added, standing alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a press conference at Germany’s chancellery.

Sunak embarked on a two-day trip to Europe designed to get the spotlight back on Ukraine after months of world attention on Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

In Poland, he pledged an additional £500 million ($617 million) for Ukraine, taking the amount of money the UK has contributed to Ukraine’s war effort to £12 billion.

Kyiv has been pleading with allies to ramp up supplies of ammunition and air defences desperately needed to repel relentless Russian attacks.

Sunak vows more spending for UK defence in ‘dangerous world’

US lawmakers eased the pressure last weekend by unblocking a $61-billion military aid package for Kyiv following six months of political wrangling.

But EU defence and foreign ministers insist that Europe must still speed up its deliveries of arms to Ukraine.

Germany has answered Kyiv’s call in recent days by saying it would send an extra Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.

But Scholz again resisted calls to send long-range Taurus missiles, which Ukraine desperately wants but which Germany fears would escalate the conflict.

“My decision is very clear” on not sending the Taurus, said Scholz.

“But my decision is also very clear that we will continue to be the biggest supporter of Ukraine in Europe,” he added.

‘New chapter’

Sunak hailed “a new chapter” in relations between Britain and Germany as they announced plans for a joint endeavour to develop remote-controlled Howitzer artillery systems that will be fitted to Boxer armoured vehicles.

“At this dangerous moment for the world, the UK and Germany are standing side by side to preserve security and prosperity at home and across our continent,” Sunak said before landing in Berlin.

In Warsaw, the UK PM pledged to gradually increase UK defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 as NATO countries face pressure to raise defence expenditure in the face of these global threats.

Sunak said that the West was facing its most dangerous period since the end of the Cold War, with Russia’s assault on Ukraine in its third year, but also the threat of escalation in the Middle East.

More of NATO’s European members – including heavyweights France and Germany – have increased their defence spending recently to meet the alliance’s two percent of GDP target.

Sunak refused to say that NATO should increase its target to 2.5 percent but added: “We recognise we need to do more,” adding: “I do believe we are in a world where defence spending is rising.”

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen recently warned that European countries need to boost defence budgets and Brussels is set to come up with further proposals by a summit of EU leaders in June.

It has put forward a 1.5-billion-euro ($1.6-billion) strategy to step up defence production, but officials say this is nowhere near sufficient.

The UK, which quit the European Union in early 2020, is among some 20 countries to have signed up to Germany’s air defence project called the European Sky Shield Initiative.

The project would involve joint procurement for short-, medium- and long-range systems, including the German-made Iris-T, the American Patriot system and the US-Israeli Arrow 3.

France has so far declined to sign up to the pact, with officials there arguing instead for an air defence system using European equipment.

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