Lord Cameron rejects Western boots on Ukraine

  • By Jennifer McKiernan
  • BBC Political Correspondent

Lord Cameron has ruled out sending Western troops into Ukraine to avoid “targeting” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking on the BBC's Ukrainecast podcast, the foreign secretary admitted that “the war will be lost if the allies don't step up”.

But Lord Cameron replied “no” when asked if the West should send troops into Ukraine.

He said NATO should be in “better shape” through the US elections.

Lord Cameron was speaking at a two-day North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit of 32 foreign ministers in Brussels.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is planning a 100 billion euro (£86bn) five-year military aid package for Ukraine, with the aim of finalizing a package for the next summit in Washington in July.

A diplomat quoted by the Reuters news agency suggested that the package “could protect some of the Trump case. But it's unlikely to create something Trump-proof.”

Lord Cameron said he would make his second visit to the US next week after being sworn in as foreign secretary and urge Congress to provide more funding that could “change the story” in Ukraine.

Whoever wins this year's US election will have to work with Nato, so it's time to get “in the best possible shape by November,” he said – referring to complaints from candidate Mr Trump.

He told Ukrainecast: “If we can get that money from the US Congress, if we can get the weapons that Ukraine needs, if we can show Putin that he can't outrun us, then Ukraine is going to fight back and win again. Much of its territory.

“Whoever comes in November, if we can do it all, we'll see the situation in Ukraine. And seeing NATO members spend 2% of their GDP on defense, that's a win. I want to invest in this win.

“So put Ukraine in the situation and make NATO the strongest possible alliance with the strongest chance of victory. Whoever wins in November 2024 will have a better situation.”

The UK is a founding member of NATO, which was created 75 years ago by countries including the US, Canada and France to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union, a group of communist nations that included Russia.

Some NATO members have sent weapons to Ukraine, with the UK, US, Germany and Turkey supplying anti-tank weapons, missile defense systems, artillery, tanks and military drones.

The US and the UK have supplied long-range missiles.

Asked about fears that war could spread further along the Ukrainian border, particularly in Poland and the Baltic states, Lord Cameron pledged that Nato would intervene in those situations under the organisation's Article 5 pledge, “an attack on one is an attack on all”. .

But he rejected Western “boots on the ground” in Ukraine itself: “We don't want to give Putin such a goal.”

The former prime minister said the UK would use the “architecture of NATO” to provide support to Ukraine, but drew a distinction between NATO's mission “for Ukraine” as opposed to “in Ukraine”.

He added: “It's not radical to say that we're going to help this free, sovereign country fight an aggressor, and we're going to give all the help we can to do that.”

Britain has given more than £7 billion to Ukraine and trained more than 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers in a program launched during Mr Cameron's time as prime minister.

But the foreign secretary urged other countries that support Ukraine to step up by donating weapons.

“Some weapons have an expiry date. “It's much better to give them to Ukraine, where they can use them, than to remove them at home, which actually costs you money.”

Ukrainecast host Lucy Hawkings tried to ask the foreign secretary for his views on the Israel-Gaza conflict, but he declined to comment, saying he wanted to focus on Ukraine.

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