World more volatile and dangerous than at any time since Cold War, Sunak warns

Politics

Rishi Sunak warned the world is now “more volatile and dangerous” than at any time since the Cold War, as the prime minister embarked on a trip to Poland and Germany to discuss the threat of expansionist Russia and refocus the world’s eyes back on to Ukraine.

Speaking to journalists on the flight over to Poland, the prime minister said we were “unfortunately living in a world that is more dangerous than we’ve known it in decade, probably more dangerous than the end of the Cold War”, adding that this was why it was “important in that we do invest more in our defence and that’s what we’ve been doing”.

“My first priority is to keep people safe, and you’re right, I have been honest with people that the world is less safe than it has been in decades and my job, indeed my obligation, is to invest to keep the country safe, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Announcing a further £500m of military support being sent to Ukraine – taking the UK’s total support this year to £3bn – the prime minister told journalists he was “proud” the UK had led on supporting Ukraine and also told European allies it was “important” for Europeans to invest in security in these volatile times.

“We’re stepping up because that is what the situation demands and requires,” he said.

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“And if we are joined by other European partners in that it is important that Europeans invest in their own security,” he told Sky News.

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“[It was] very welcome news over the weekend from the US, but that doesn’t take away from the need for Europeans to invest in their security.

“I am very proud that the UK has always led in that regard. We are Europe’s largest defence spender and one of the few countries that’s consistently met the 2% NATO pledge and today’s action is another example of us leading by example.”

The prime minister is joined on this trip by his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, raising expectations that the prime minister might be making a bigger funding commitment on defence as he comes back on to the world stage. He will meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the next 24 hours.

The UK on Monday committed its largest ever donation of kit, including more than 400 vehicles, more than 1,600 missiles and 4m rounds of ammunition to the Ukraine war effort as Russia makes inroads.

“They have asked and we have answered,” said the prime minister as he warned that Mr Putin “will not stop at the Polish border” if Russia defeats Ukraine.

But having raided the UK’s arsenal to send to equipment to Ukraine, the next obvious question is whether the prime minister will finally lift the UK’s defence spending to 2.5% of GDP in the face of the growing threat of Russia and China.

The drumbeat is getting louder with two ministers last month – Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Tom Tugendhat – publicly urging the government to invest at a “much greater pace”.

The chancellor has said spending above the 2% NATO target would rise to this figure “as soon as economic conditions allow”.

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The House of Commons spending watchdog – the Public Accounts Committee – has warned the gap between the Ministry of Defence budget and cost of the UK’s desired military capabilities has risen by £16.9bn – the largest deficit ever – despite a promised injection of over £46bn over the next decade.

Fresh from victory on the passing of his landmark Rwanda legislation and emphatic that a regular rhythm hour of flights will be taking off from July, the trip to Europe is part of a publicity blitz as the embattled prime minister looks to get on the front foot ahead of next week’s local elections, aware that a disastrous night could put him not just back on to his heels but into free fall.

Kyiv’s weapons pile has been depleted, with a $60bn military aid package held up in the US Congress for months. The House of Representatives finally approved the funding at the weekend, with the deal now awaiting approval in the Senate, which should mean American weapons should start flowing into Ukraine in the coming days.

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