Keir Starmer warns Putin that Nato resolve 'bigger than ever' in face of 'threat of Russian aggression'

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer meeting President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer meeting President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington (PA Wire)

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Britain’s new Prime Minister warned Vladimir Putin that Nato’s resolve is “bigger now than it’s ever been” as it was “absolutely clear eyed about the threat of Russian aggression”.

Sir Keir Starmer delivered the strong message at a summit of the military alliance in Washington after meeting Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

He stressed that the change of Government in Britain would not alter the nation’s steadfast support for Ukraine.

“We’d been united on this when we were in opposition, and it was really important to me to be able to affirm that face-to face at the meeting,” said Sir Keir.

He explained that it was a chance “to discuss with President Zelensky what further support he needs and to use our opportunity here with our allies to make sure that that support is agreed”.

“And to reinforce, in a sense as a message to Putin, the resolve of Nato, bigger now than it’s ever been, more united than it’s ever been and absolutely clear eyed about the threat of Russian aggression,” he added.

Putin’s war in Ukraine has left tens of thousands of civilians dead, with hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers killed or wounded, and similar levels of casualties for Ukraine’s armed forces.

Putin’s forces have been gradually gaining territory in Ukraine but the West is now supplying more long-range missiles, with permission to strike military targets deep inside Russia.

Defence Secretary John Healey and Foreign Secretary David Lammy joined the Prime Minister with officials around a table with Mr Zelensky.

Sir Keir said: “As you know from the get go .. there’s a change of government but no change of approach.”

He said the recent attack on a children’s hospital in Kyiv, blamed on Russia, was “just shocking”.

Mr Zelensky thanked Sir Keir for his words and for Britain’s support.

“Thank you again that you are with us from the very beginning of the war,” he said.

Sir Keir is due to go to the White House on Thursday for talks with Joe Biden.

Asked about the meeting, he said: "I've already had a phone call with President Biden.

"I want to follow up on that, this is obviously a very special relationship we have between the UK and the US.

"We have, within that, a special aspect when it comes to defence and security for obvious reasons including our commitment to Nato.

"We make a unique contribution in Europe to Nato and therefore it's a very good opportunity for me to talk to the President about how we take forward the important work at this summit."

Sir Keir will present Mr Biden with a personalised Arsenal shirt when the pair meet at the White House.

The shirt, with Mr Biden's surname and the number 46, a reference to his presidential number, will be handed over by UK officials to White House aides.

The US president, aged 81, is due to speak at a press conference at the end of the Nato summit amid the questions over whether he is fit to serve a second term in office after his stumbling performance during a TV debate with Donald Trump.

Sir Keir also met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as part of a frenzy of diplomacy as ministers push for a “significant improving” of security ties with Europe after fraught relations over Brexit.

“The Chancellor welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to resetting the UK’s European partnerships, noting how important our friendships with like-minded countries will be in a challenging international environment,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

They discussed the need for enhanced defence co-operation in Europe to act as a deterrent for aggression by hostile actors.

However, Sir Keir is yet to commit to a date by which Britain will be spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence.

He emphasised, though, that his talks with world leaders were “an opportunity to make sure that those relationships are reset, for me to be able to say that our position on the world stage, leading on issues like defence and security, on climate change, and on energy, are so important”.

He also insisted that the new Government was prepared to be “robust” with China if necessary.

The Prime Minister will carry out an audit of UK-China relations to understand the scale of the challenges posed by Beijing.

Sir Keir said the Government would “take action accordingly” based on the findings of the audit.