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Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg praises Sunak for UK’s ‘strong support’ for Ukraine

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (James Manning/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (James Manning/PA)

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg praised Rishi Sunak for the “strong support” the UK provides to Ukraine as the pair held talks in Downing Street.

Reflecting on his visit to a Kent army camp where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained, and pointing to Britain’s contribution of resources in the sea and skies, he said the UK is playing a “key role” in “leading our efforts” to help the country in the face of Russian aggression.

Mr Stoltenberg also said it is “encouraging” to see Ukraine making territorial gains, as Moscow said it was withdrawing from the southern city of Kherson and nearby areas.

“We have seen the announcement but we will of course wait and see what actually happens on the ground,” he said.

“What we do know is that Russia has been pushed back, first from the north around Kyiv, then in the east around Kharkiv, and then actually we see slowly how the Ukrainians are able to push back the Russian forces also in the south around Kherson.

“So it is encouraging to see how the brave Ukrainian forces are able to liberate more Ukrainian territory.”

The Prime Minister earlier welcomed Mr Stoltenberg to No 10, saying there was “lots for us to talk about”.

At the top of the meeting, Mr Sunak said: “You’ll know that the Nato alliance is a cornerstone of the UK’s security. We’re proud to be the second-largest contributor and we remain extremely committed to the alliance.

“I also know under your leadership that Nato will continue to evolve to face the new threats that we’re all seeing, and (we will) of course work with you and other allies to support Ukraine against Russian aggression.”

Speaking to the media outside No 10 after the talks, Mr Stoltenberg said there had been a “good meeting”.

He said he used the opportunity to praise Mr Sunak for “the strong support that the United Kingdom provides to Ukraine”.

Mr Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin made “several huge mistakes” when he invaded, including underestimating Nato’s ability to support Ukraine.

“What we see when you look at the opinion polls, the political messages from different Nato allied countries, is that we are ready to continue to provide support for as long as it takes,” he said.

He said there are “always some voices that have a different opinion” but the “clear message” from the majority is that “we will continue to support Ukraine”.

Jens Stoltenberg
Mr Stoltenberg speaks to the media outside 10 Downing Street (James Manning/PA)

Downing Street said the pair agreed on the importance of the alliance “continuing to adapt to face new threats”.

Mr Sunak also outlined plans to update the UK’s Integrated Review on defence and security, according to a No 10 spokeswoman.

The Nato secretary general said he is “absolutely confident” the UK will continue to “lead by example” on defence spending.

There has been some uncertainty over whether Mr Sunak will stick by his predecessor Liz Truss’s pledge to boost the investment as a proportion of GDP to 3% by the end of the decade – a more ambitious target than Nato’s minimum of 2%.

“The United Kingdom has led by example over many years when it comes to… defence spending, spending more than 2% of GDP on defence; the United Kingdom has done that and now more and more allies are following example of the United Kingdom,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“But of course in a more dangerous world we need to invest more in our defence, and I am absolutely confident that the United Kingdom will continue to lead by example on defence spending.”