British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said NATO allies should finalize a security guarantee for Ukraine when the alliance’s leaders meet at a summit in July.
Speaking in conversation with Maria Tadeo of Bloomberg Television at the Munich Security Conference, Sunak endorsed the idea of Ukraine eventually joining NATO but insisted there must also be a plan to underwrite the country’s security before then.
“We need to think about the future of how we protect Ukraine’s security,” he said. “That’s a conversation that we should start having, because the Vilnius summit is a good place to conclude.” NATO leaders will meet July 11 and 12 in the Lithuanian capital.
Sunak also called on Ukraine’s allies to send more artillery, long-range weapons, tanks and air-defense systems to fend off the Russian invasion, saying the war has reached an “inflection point” and Kyiv can seize a decisive advantage if it’s given the right weapons.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the security initiative, saying that beyond the current conflict, allies must ensure that Moscow poses no threat to Ukraine in the future as it looks to join the 30-member military alliance.
“We need to do everything in our power to make sure Russia won’t simply repeat the exercise five years from now,” Blinken said at the Munich conference.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was still unclear what the framework would look like but that it could involve a long-term partnership that helps Ukraine’s military modernise and adopt NATO standards as a way to build credible defenses that Russia wouldn’t violate again.
“We need to ensure they don’t continue to take parts of Ukrainian territory, but this is also very much about how we cannot allow Russia to chip away at European security,” Stoltenberg said. “Therefore we need to ensure some kind of framework that prevents Russia from continuing this cycle of aggression.”
“The best security guarantees between now and NATO membership are sanctions, weapons and money,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on a panel with Blinken and German counterpart Annalena Baerbock.
The UK government has sought to portray itself as leading the world in the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Britain last month became the first country to commit to sending modern main battle tanks to the war-battered nation, a decision that helped pave the way for Germany, the US and others to do likewise.
British tanks will be ready for use in Ukraine as early as March, Sunak has said. Earlier this month the prime minister received a political boost when Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise visit to the UK, praising Britain for backing Ukraine from the very start of the war.
The UK is now discussing sending long-range missiles to Ukraine while also assessing the long-term possibility of sending fighter jets to help in the war against Russia. UK troops will begin training Ukrainian pilots in the spring although Sunak said the logistical challenges of supporting British planes means it’s not feasible to send jets in the short term.