The UK will become the first country to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons, British Prime Minister Sunak said on Saturday as he pushed for “NATO standard capabilities” for Ukraine.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, Sunak told world leaders Ukraine needs “a decisive advantage on the battlefield” to defeat Russia and long-term support for its future security and reconstruction.
He called on NATO to establish a new charter to help Ukraine from future Russian aggression.
Sunak cited the provision of UK tanks and his administration’s decision to begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard fighter jets as an example of how Britain was playing its part, and its allies “collective efforts,” saying it’s now “the moment to double down” on military support.
“Together, we’re delivering as much equipment in the next few months, as in the whole of 2022. And together, we must help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones,” Sunak said.
“And that’s why the United Kingdom will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons,” he said, adding that the UK is working with allies to”give Ukraine the most advanced air defense systems and build the air force they need to defend their nation.”
Citing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement that Ukraine will become a member of the defence alliance, Sunak said the country’s security must be bolstered before its NATO ascension.
“Russia has committed violation after violation against countries outside the collective security of NATO. And the international community’s response has not been strong enough,” he said, arguing that NATO should provide “the advanced NATO standard capabilities that they need for the future.”
Asked after the speech whether longer-range weapons will include long-range missiles that could hit Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, Sunak said Ukraine’s “sovereignty has been violated, its people are being killed, and it has every right to defend itself.”
Heavy tanks, air defense, and longer-range weapons are “all the things that will allow Ukraine to defend itself and repel Russian aggression, and indeed, yes, to have a counter-offensive that moves Russia outside of its own country,” Sunak said.
“I think that’s entirely reasonable and we should be fully behind Ukraine in that ambition. And want the ambition to succeed. And for them”
‘New Charter’ on Further Security
He also called on NATO to use the summit in Vilnius in July to forge a “new charter” as the existing security architecture “has failed Ukraine.”
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a significant portion of the communist bloc’s nuclear weapons, making it the third largest nuclear power in the world.
After reaching a series of agreements, such as the Minsk Agreement in 1991, the Lisbon Protocol in 1992 (pdf), and the Budapest Memorandum in 1994, Ukraine, along with former Soviet nations Belarus and Kazakhstan, signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for the protection by nuclear-weapon states including Russia, the UK, China, France, and United States.
Sunak said the framework has failed after Russia “continually violated, whether it’s human rights treaties, or indeed arms control treaties” and the conversation should start on how to provide long-term support for Ukraine.
Sunak also said the world “must hold Russia to account,” including bringing it to the International Criminal Court over war crimes and discussing how to ensure Russia “pays towards” the reconstruction of Ukraine during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London in June.
Before and after his speech, Sunak held bilateral talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
The U.S. Biden administration officially determined last March that Russian troops had committed war crimes in Ukraine.
Harris said on Saturday that Whitehouse has formally concluded that Russia committed “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine.
“Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population—gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation,” Harris said. She also cited “execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution.”
Tom Ozimek and PA Media contributed to this report.