Zelenskyy later said that he was confused by what the defence secretary said, adding that “we were always grateful. I didn’t know what he meant and how else I should express my words of gratitude.”…reports Asian Lite News
The UK is not an “Amazon” delivery service for weapons to Ukraine and Kyiv might be wise to let its supporters “see gratitude”, Britain’s defence secretary has said.
In a blunt intervention, Ben Wallace said his “counsel” to the Ukrainians was to keep in mind that they need to persuade some doubting politicians in Washington and other capitals that the tens of billions of pounds they are spending on military aid to their country for its war with Russia is worthwhile.
He was responding to a question about whether the failure of allies to give President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a timeframe for NATO membership at a major summit this week would undermine the morale of his troops on the frontline.
Zelenskyy later said that he was confused by what the defence secretary said, adding that “we were always grateful. I didn’t know what he meant and how else I should express my words of gratitude.”
He jokingly added: “We could get up in the morning and express our words of gratitude personally to the minister. We are grateful to the UK.”
Wallace earlier said that he did not believe Ukrainian troops’ morale would be affected by NATO splits, before describing how Ukraine is always asking for more even after receiving the latest batch of arms.
“There is a slight word of caution here, which is that whether we like it or not people want to see gratitude,” Mr Wallace said in a briefing to journalists on the sidelines of the two-day NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
“My counsel to the Ukrainians is sometimes you’re persuading countries to give up their own stocks [of weapons] and yes the war is a noble war and yes we see it as you doing a war for – not just yourself – but our freedoms. But sometimes you’ve got to persuade lawmakers on the Hill in America, you’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that you know that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and that they’re getting something for it. And whether you like that or not, that is just the reality of it.”
Wallace said you sometimes hear “grumbles” from American politicians – not the administration – about support to Ukraine that “we’ve given $83bn worth or whatever [and] you know, we’re not Amazon.”
The defence secretary said he too had told the Ukrainians in June last year that the UK was not the online delivery service when it came to supplying arms.
“I said to the Ukrainians last year, when I drove 11 hours to [Kyiv to] be given a list – I said, I am not Amazon.”
He also said he warned them that they needed to provide better training for their troops to stop them from suffering such a high weekly rate of casualties as that would risk them losing political support. He instead offered to provide a training programme in the UK.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back against the defence secretary’s comments, saying Mr Zelenskyy had “expressed his gratitude for what we’ve done on a number of occasions”.
“Not least in his incredibly moving address that he made to parliament earlier this year,” the prime minister added.
“He’s done so again as he’s done countless times when I’ve met him so I know he and his people are incredibly grateful for the support the UK has shown, the welcome that we have provided to many Ukrainian families but also the leadership that we’ve shown throughout this conflict – often being the first to move support forward whether it was the provision of tanks or long-range weapons,” he said.
“People across Ukraine are also fighting for their lives and freedom every single day and they’re paying a terrible price for it so I completely understand Volodymyr’s desire to do everything he can protect his people and to stop this war. We will continue to give him the support he needs.”