UK closes security deal with Ukraine, first G7 country to do so

Ahead of his visit to Kyiv on 12 January 2024, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined his plans for a new and improved security arrangement to support Ukraine in its war against invading Russian forces.

Britain is the first country to bilateral agreement lock with the war-torn nation – a major pledge made by the G7 nations at the last NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023.

While any further US military assistance to Ukraine is suspended for now, European countries are left to bear the burden. While it is unlikely that the continent will collectively offset US funds – which made up 43% of total support value – news of the UK’s pledge of support will give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy some pleasure and perhaps prompt other nations to follow suit.

Additionally, efforts have been made to shore up Ukraine’s defense industrial base in recent months as a way to strengthen the nation as Zelenskyy recently called for a combination of global support as well as cooperation from international defense industries, more recently Polish arms manufacturers.

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These new assurances mark what the UK government believes will set the scene for the start of a “century of partnership”.

Taking a page from Zelensky’s wartime Churchillian rhetoric, Sunak promised “the United Kingdom will not falter. We will stand by Ukraine in its darkest hours and in its best times.”

Britons are pooling their funds

The UK-Ukraine Security Cooperation Agreement formalizes a range of support that the UK has provided and will continue to provide for Ukraine’s security, including intelligence sharing, cyber security, medical and military training and defense industrial engineering cooperation.

Notably, Sunak also confirmed that the UK will provide £2.5 billion ($3.18 billion) in military aid to Ukraine in 2024/25, an increase of £200 million over the previous two years.

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has made these additional funds available for a major push to rapidly procure and produce thousands of military drones for Ukraine, including surveillance, long-range strike and maritime drones.

“This will be the largest delivery of drones to Ukraine by any nation,” the ministry claimed. “Most of the drones are expected to be manufactured in the UK and the [MoD] will work with international partners to significantly increase the number of drones provided for the defense of Ukraine.”

Language will enable greater collaboration

Of course, the ability to speak the same language is a critical factor in cooperation, which is why the bilateral agreement will also provide additional funding and resources for English language education in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has proposed legislation to promote the English language in Ukraine, boosting economic competitiveness and diplomatic ties. Today’s announcement will see the UK funding online English courses for Ukrainians of all ages, as well as providing resources and teacher training.

Ahead of receiving the Ukrainian Air Force F-16 Fight Falcon, the US also provided basic English language lessons for pilots in September last year.

Additional engagements against the Russian strategy

An additional £18m will also go to humanitarian aid in Ukraine, building on almost £340m already allocated.

Part of this funding will support organizations such as the UN and the Red Cross to deliver humanitarian aid on the frontline, and £8m will go towards strengthening Ukraine’s energy infrastructure against further Russian attacks.

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive stalled as winter set in, Russian forces orchestrated a retaliatory campaign against civilian energy infrastructure to destroy Ukrainian morale.

However, since mid-December, Russia’s strategy changed when it used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes against civilian and military targets in the Zaporizhia region? Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Region; while Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that a Russian UAV attack destroyed an administrative building in the city of Odesa.

“Russia is likely to disperse its UAV launch capabilities to various locations as a force protection measure and to complicate Ukrainian air defense efforts,” British intelligence speculated.

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