UK

Shapps urges US Congress to approve military aid for Ukraine

The Defence Secretary was asked about the ongoing impasse in Washington over Joe Biden’s planned £47.5 billion package for Kyiv.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire Defence Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has urged American politicians to support Ukraine “because it’s in the interests of the United States of America”.

After visiting British and Ukrainian soldiers at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire on Thursday, Mr Shapps was asked about the ongoing impasse in the United States Congress over President Joe Biden’s planned 60 billion dollar (£47.5 billion) military aid package for Kyiv.

Mr Shapps said: “My message to those on Capitol Hill is really simple – I was in the White House and Capitol Hill last month.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was shown around a Jackal armoured vehicle at Catterick
Grant Shapps visits Catterick Garrison Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was shown around a Jackal armoured vehicle at Catterick (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“It is: do this because it’s in the interests of the United States of America.

“Do it because it’s not just coming to Europe’s rescue again, but because we have to show not just Putin but other despots, despotic leaders elsewhere, that you can’t get away with just timing us out – waiting until we get bored and then we say we’re going to stop you and we don’t.

“When we say there’s a red line, we mean it. It doesn’t matter who else you are, which part of the world you’re interested in, you can see that we stick with the programme.

“That is why I think it is so important that Congress stays with us.

The Defence Secretary urged American politicians to continue supporting Ukraine
Grant Shapps visits Catterick Garrison The Defence Secretary urged American politicians to continue supporting Ukraine (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“I think my understanding of Ukraine is like the rest of the British population, which is that we instinctively know and appreciate that if we allow a tyrant to invade their neighbour, then all gloves are off.

“It means you just give up on the world order and that would have a significant impact for every British family.

“We know we need to support Ukraine. Britain has stepped up with our biggest package ever – £2.5 billion this year, which is bigger than the £2.3 billion from the previous two years.

“We are very, very keen to see the rest of the world contributing as well.

“The Americans obviously a very, very big part of that.”

Grant Shapps visits Catterick Garrison (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Asked about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, Mr Shapps said: “We’ve had a Trump presidency before, so it wouldn’t be the first.

“There are quite a number of hurdles, including his nomination and an election, which will need to be crossed first.

“And then I wouldn’t jump to too many conclusions about which policies will be followed because, as we know from Trump, hold on for a white-knuckle-ride, if it were Trump. But, let’s see.”

Mr Shapps said: “I believe that, in the end, America’s best interests are served when America is providing that leadership to the civilised world, to the West.

“So, I would always be encouraging the man who is in the White House for America to stay fully engaged, and Britain will always do our part in that leadership.”

Mr Shapps also said he could not comment on the likely outcome for defence when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers his Budget next week.

But he stressed the UK is committed to moving defence spending to 2.5% of GDP when the economy allows, and added: “I have personally talked about 3% before I was defence secretary and I think, ultimately, countries will need to spend more.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met trainee British soldiers and Ukrainian troops at Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire
Grant Shapps visits Catterick Garrison Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met trainee British soldiers and Ukrainian troops at Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“As you would expect, I’m a secretary of state who lobbies hard for the area that I represent and I happen to think that, in this case, the defence of our nation is our number one priority.

“The first thing a government has to do is make sure it secures its borders and is able to defend itself.

“I am pretty full throttle in my insistence that that’s what we do.”

Mr Shapps met Ukrainian troops at Catterick as well as young British trainee soldiers.

He was shown around a Jackal armoured vehicle and also inspected mock Russian trenches which have been dug as part of training exercises.

The secretary of state said Britain had now helped to train 60,000 Ukrainian troops and the ones he met on Thursday said they were grateful to UK soldiers and the country.

He said: “It gives them a chance to spread their training to their colleagues back home.

“For them, this isn’t just a nice thing to have. It’s the difference between life and death.”