Svitlana Morenets Svitlana Morenets

What Britain’s defence deal with Ukraine means for the war

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Rishi Sunak in Kyiv (Credit: Getty images)

In his surprise visit to Kyiv, Rishi Sunak had two pieces of good news for Ukrainians: another £2.5 billion in military aid and an agreement to sign a bilateral defence deal. Ukraine isn’t going to join Nato any time soon, so the country’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky has been trying to build a next-best alternative: a series of deals with allies. Britain is the first.

The UK says it will provide intelligence sharing, cyber security, medical and military training and defence industrial cooperation. And post-war, if Ukraine is ever attacked by Russia again, the UK will agree to provide ‘swift and sustained’ assistance. The Ukrainian government has been negotiating such agreements with 30 other countries; Sunak’s decision to sign a deal – which he confirmed as he met Zelensky in his presidential palace this afternoon – could potentially set a trend. The agreement lasts ten years and is extendable. If Ukraine joins Nato before the term ends, security obligations will transfer to Nato.

Sunak is well-regarded in Ukraine

The Prime Minister is well-regarded in Ukraine and the £2.5 billion is a larger amount than anyone else has offered, other than the US. It means long-range missiles, air defence, artillery ammunition and maritime security. At least £200 million has been set aside to fund the production of drones, including surveillance, long-range strike and sea drones. In his New Year’s speech, Zelensky said he’d try to oversee the production of a million of them this year to break the war’s deadlock.

If Ukrainians feared that western support was wavering at the end of last year, this month has finally brought with it a positive turn. This week, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania offered aid packages to Ukraine which contain ammunition, drones, generators, demining systems and more. Other allies are also expected to join the effort.

Svitlana Morenets’s article appeared in today’s Lunchtime Espresso.

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