Grant Shapps is the United Kingdom’s secretary of state for defence.
2024 marks a pivotal crossroads: The greatest democratic year in history, with nearly half of the world’s population heading to the polls, it’s also the year that may decide the fate of Ukraine’s vibrant democracy.
We know that Russia’s prepared for a war of attrition no matter how many tens of thousands of its own citizens it loses, and that Moscow’s spending ever more of its resources on the ongoing conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defense and security spending is already set to reach a staggering 40 percent of the country’s budget expenditure. And the Kremlin has upped the ante since the start of the year, increasing the intensity of its attacks.
In light of all this, Ukraine has done an unbelievable job of repelling its invader. It has retaken 50 percent of the territory stolen by Russia, and opened up a maritime passage in the Black Sea.
But Kyiv needs more support — and not just from the United Kingdom. Our fellow allies must step up too.
For its part, the U.K. has been intensifying its efforts to aid Ukraine, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv earlier this month. And during his visit, Sunak announced the increase of U.K.’s military support to £2.5 billion — taking Britain’s total military aid to over £7 billion.
This new money includes £200 million for manufacturing and procuring surveillance, long-range strike, and sea drones, now making the U.K. — which was the first European nation to send Ukraine anti-tank weapons, modern Western main battle tanks and precision long-range missiles — the country’s largest provider of drones.
Even more significantly, during his trip the prime minister signed a historic U.K.-Ukraine Agreement on Security Cooperation. Formalizing support on everything from intelligence sharing and cyber security to medical and military training, this agreement lays the foundations for a century-long partnership.
The message couldn’t be clearer: The U.K. is in this for the long haul.
But the message I’m sending my counterparts on the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group is that they too must take action.
Over the past two years, the U.K. has galvanized the international community. It has brought together some 11 countries to help train more than 34,000 Ukrainian recruits here in the U.K. — forming part of the 60,000-strong Ukrainian personnel that Britain has trained since 2014. It has set up the International Fund for Ukraine, raising more than £750 million to procure priority military kit and another bidding round launching just yesterday. Moreover, alongside Norway, it has been leading a Maritime Coalition designed to put Ukraine firmly back in charge of its security in the Black Sea — and a long list of nations are waiting to join.
However, we must maintain this momentum. And we need more diplomatic, economic and military support to do so.
There’s no world in which Putin can be allowed to win. Not only would it embolden him, putting our other Eastern European allies in Russia’s crosshairs, but it would also signal to China that everything is up for grabs.
There can be no wavering. No fence-sitting. No waiting to see which way the wind blows. Putin believes the West can be worn down. He believes we lack strategic patience. And we must prove him wrong.
In this great year of democracy, Ukraine’s future is in the West’s hands. We cannot let them down.