NATO members must make it their “absolute priority” to stop the Ukraine war and push Russian troops out of the country – or face a “much less safe Europe”, the foreign secretary has warned.
“I’ve not met Vladimir Putin, I don’t know the motivation for carrying out this appalling war,” she said.
“All I know is that we have to make it our absolute priority to stop this war and to push Vladimir Putin and the Russian troops out of Ukraine.”
The foreign secretary’s comments came as the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, told Sky News the Third World War “has already started”.
Meanwhile, the UK government has announced it is to provide an extra £1bn of military support to Ukraine. It brings the total UK military support since the outbreak of war to £2.3bn – more than any country other than the US.
The prime minister said the additional money will go towards capabilities including sophisticated air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, innovative new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers.
Posting on social media, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the UK for the additional funds, posting: “I am grateful to the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allocating an additional £1 billion for security assistance to Ukraine.
“The United Kingdom is our true friend and strategic partner. We appreciate the consistent leadership support for Ukraine in countering Russian aggression.”
Defence budget ‘must be fit for purpose’
But back at home, there is an ongoing debate over whether defence spending should be increased in light of the conflict.
The UK currently spends around 2% of its GDP on defence, matching the target NATO sets for its members, but the defence secretary has urged the PM to increase spending on the UK’s armed forces in response to the war.
Ms Truss declined to say if she agrees with Mr Wallace’s plea, but said the budget must be “fit for purpose”.
“I agree that we need to make sure that all of the Western alliance is spending more on defence and putting more into supporting our eastern allies,” she told Sky News.
“I’m not going to get into details of the negotiations of the spending review.
“I think it is imperative that we do make sure that our defence budget is fit for purpose and also able to deal with the modern challenges like cyber warfare, the issues that we face in space as well.”
Asked about government plans to shrink the armed forces, she said: “I support our plans on defence.
“But what I’m saying is we need to continue to evolve them as we face new and different threats. I don’t think any of us expected to see this type of war on European land in our lifetimes.”
Putin proved ‘completely wrong’
Ms Truss also dismissed criticism from a parliamentary committee that the government was too slow to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
“We acted very quickly,” she said. “And we have done more than any other country in terms of the number of individuals and entities who were sanctioned.”
On Wednesday, the PM said Mr Putin had been proved “completely wrong” about the strength of NATO, which is set to expand to include Sweden and Finland after they ended decades of neutrality over concerns about Russia.
It came as members of the alliance agreed to place 300,000 troops at high readiness next year, up from the current level of 40,000.
For the UK, this will mean the “majority” of naval forces – including one of the aircraft carriers and its support vessels – being available to NATO, along with extra air squadrons and land brigade-sized units.