Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ukraine war is ‘Europe’s problem’, says Trump ally: Sir Keir Starmer is warned against ‘haranguing’ Washington for help and told not to expect significant support from the US should the former president be re-elected

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Sir Keir Starmer has been warned against ‘haranguing’ Washington for help for Ukraine and has been told not to expect significant support from the US should Donald Trump be re-elected, one of the former president’s allies said. 

Elbridge Colby, who is likely to be taking up a security role if Trump returns to the White House, said that the new Prime Minister needs to accept that the Ukraine war is Europe’s problem.

‘The biggest thing on the agenda with European states should be: are you taking primary responsibility for the conventional defence of Nato in Europe?’ he told the Telegraph

‘You guys have got to take care of your own situation better, because we have to focus on China.’

He also said that Britain should use a ‘Britain first’ strategy that focuses more on European security rather than the Indo-Pacific region. 

Sir Keir Starmer was warned against ‘haranguing’ Washington for help for Ukraine and was told not to expect significant support from the US should Donald Trump be re-elected, one of the former president’s allies has said

Donald Trump (pictured) has told NATO members they will be 'on their own' unless they increase defence spending if he wins a second term in office in November

Donald Trump (pictured) has told NATO members they will be ‘on their own’ unless they increase defence spending if he wins a second term in office in November

Sir Keir Starmer, who flew to Washington last night for a major Nato summit, said there was ¿no more important duty¿ than safeguarding the nation

Sir Keir Starmer, who flew to Washington last night for a major Nato summit, said there was ‘no more important duty’ than safeguarding the nation

Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery in the direction of Siversk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on April 01, 2024

Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery in the direction of Siversk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on April 01, 2024

His comments come as Sir Keir is on his way to Washington for a Nato summit, where he will meet other leaders as Britain’s Prime Minister for the first time.

The summit is focused on bolstering support for Ukraine. But President Biden and others are expected to press member states in Europe to increase defence spending to deter the Russian threat. 

The UK is one of the few Nato countries to consistently meet the bloc’s ‘minimum’ target of two per cent of GDP on defence. 

Sir Keir is also due to meet face-to-face to discuss the matter with Biden at the White House. 

Rishi Sunak had planned to use the event to press for the threshold to be raised to 2.5 per cent in recognition of the enhanced threat.

The UK currently spends £64.6billion on defence, equal to 2.32 per cent of GDP. Sunak set out plans to raise it each year to reach £87.1billion by 2030, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of forecast GDP. 

Labour has so far set out only an aspiration to reach the spending target at an unspecified date.

Trump has previously told Nato members they will be ‘on their own’ unless they increase defence spending if he wins a second term in office in November.

The former US president said that if he was elected again, continued US support for Ukraine would be depending on Nato members matching the contributions. 

‘If you’re not going to pay, then you’re on your own,’ Trump told Nato countries in an interview with Time magazine.

At a campaign rally, Trump told his supporters that Russia could ‘do whatever the hell they want’ to any Nato country not meeting its financial obligations for defence.

The 77-year-old doubled down on these claims in the Time interview published earlier this year and said: ‘I wouldn’t give [a penny] unless Europe starts equalising.’ 

‘If Europe is not going to pay, why should we pay? They’re much more greatly affected. We have an ocean in between us. They don’t,’ he added.

Under the Biden administration, the US has sent more than £79.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine – EU nations have given the same. 

Nato members have agreed on a long-term support package for Ukraine last month, which will see alliance members commit £79.5 billion over five years to ensure long-term support, even amid a Trump presidency.

The Labour Party has made several efforts to woo Trump and encourage him to support Ukraine, just like Sunak’s team did. 

Trump ally Colby (pictured), who worked in the Pentagon during Trump's presidency, also discussed how the US and the UK could work should Trump return to the White House in November

Trump ally Colby (pictured), who worked in the Pentagon during Trump’s presidency, also discussed how the US and the UK could work should Trump return to the White House in November

This comes after Sir Keir warned Putin that he 'will not succeed' after he faced questions about defence spending this week

This comes after Sir Keir warned Putin that he ‘will not succeed’ after he faced questions about defence spending this week

Trump ally Colby, who worked in the Pentagon during Trump’s presidency, also discussed how the US and the UK could work should Trump return to the White House in November. 

He urged to focus more on European interests, adding that there was ‘very little’ the British forces could do in the Pacific or even further afield than that. 

Colby said Labour had been more ‘understanding’ than the Tories of Trump’s plan to reduce US involvement in Ukraine.

He told the Telegraph that a ‘more restrained view of American power and American intervention’ was ‘understanding the American people where they are’.

Colby added that former Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s talks had been ‘much more like political haranguing’.

He also accused the UK of ‘writing cheques that the American people are supposed to cash’ by urging the US to supply Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine but ‘only giving £3billion a year’. 

This comes after Sir Keir warned Putin that he ‘will not succeed’ after he faced questions about defence spending this week.  

He is expected to hold talks with a string of world leaders in the next 48 hours, including a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured) and face-to-face discussions with Joe Biden today

He is expected to hold talks with a string of world leaders in the next 48 hours, including a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured) and face-to-face discussions with Joe Biden today

Sir Keir will be accompanied by his wife Victoria (pictured), who is expected to join him for a leaders¿ dinner hosted by President Biden at the White House tonight

Sir Keir will be accompanied by his wife Victoria (pictured), who is expected to join him for a leaders’ dinner hosted by President Biden at the White House tonight

The Prime Minister said there was ‘no more important duty’ than safeguarding the nation.

He announced that the Government will launch a strategic defence review next week to assess the threats to the UK and the military capabilities needed to counter them.

Government sources said the review would include a ‘roadmap’ to raising defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

But the decision to scrap Rishi Sunak‘s plan to reach the target by 2030 has alarmed experts who warn there is no time for delay. Setting a timetable after the review is likely to delay a decision on increased spending by at least a year.

Sources said the review would reorient the UK to a ‘Nato-first’ stance, reversing the ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’ ordered by the last government. 

The move is likely to raise eyebrows given the threat posed to UK interest by China. Chinese troops were reported to be conducting joint military exercises with Russian forces in Ukraine‘s neighbour Belarus this week.

As he prepared to travel to Washington last night, Sir Keir said: ‘There is no more important duty for me as Prime Minister than keeping the people of our country safe. 

‘At a time when we face multiple threats at home and abroad, we must make sure we are ready to defend ourselves. That’s why I have immediately ordered a root-and-branch review that will secure Britain’s defences for the future.

‘Our Strategic Defence Review will make sure the UK is sending a clear message to those who seek to undermine peace and democracy – you will not succeed.’

Downing Street said the PM would push other countries to raise defence spending this week, despite delaying his own decision on the issue. 

The PM’s official spokesman said the 2.5 per cent spending target would be hit as soon as possible ‘within our fiscal rules’.

But military experts say there is no time for delay. General Sir Patrick Sanders, former head of the Army, told the Times that the UK’s forces were so depleted they were capable of fighting only a small war – and even then for no more than a month.

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