Starmer gets first big diplomatic win with ‘irreversible’ Ukraine Nato membership plan

Starmer gets first big diplomatic win with irreversible Ukraine Nato membership plan
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Sir Keir Starmer has begun to reset Britain’s relations with key allies as his plan to ensure Ukraine’s pathway to joining Nato is irreversible is set to be adopted.

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The new prime minister arrived in Washington with support for his aim to protect Ukraine’s entry process into the Nato alliance from any potential interfence from a Trump presidency.

He has spoken of his hopes that military and economic aid to Ukraine from Nato will be Donald Trump-proof should the former US president retake the White House in November.

With Nato leaders making the war in Ukraine one of their main topics, Sir Keir’s long-term call – which he made as Labour opposition leader – for the “irreversible” membership strategy is expected to be a key part of discussions.

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Prime minister Keir Starmer meets Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of the Nato summit in Washington on Wednesday
Prime minister Keir Starmer meets Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of the Nato summit in Washington on Wednesday (via Reuters)

One of his first Nato meetings was with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky who is also in the US capital to discuss Russia’s war against his country. The UK’s new defence secretary John Healey flew to Ukraine on Friday immediately after being appointed.

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Following Wednesday’s meeting, Sir Keir said: “I’ve just had a very good meeting with President Zelensky, where I made it absolutely clear that as far as the UK is concerned, the change of government makes no difference to the support that we will provide.

“We’d been united on this when we were in opposition, and it was really important to me to be able to affirm that face to face at the meeting.

“I did speak to him immediately after I was sworn in as prime minister last week. And so we build on it here at Nato at this important summit because it is an opportunity for our Labour government to reaffirm our commitment to Nato.

“We obviously signed the original treaty, way back, we reaffirm today, but also to discuss with President Zelensky what further support that he needs and to use our opportunity here with our allies to make sure that that support is agreed.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz was among the world leaders meeting the new British PM in Washington
German chancellor Olaf Scholz was among the world leaders meeting the new British PM in Washington (AP)

“And to reinforce, in a sense as a message to Putin, the resolve of Nato, bigger now than it’s ever been, more united than it’s ever been and absolutely clear-eyed about the threat of Russian aggression.”

In a statement posted to X, Mr Zelensky said he had thanked Sir Keir for the UK’s military and financial support for Ukraine.

He added: “This morning, I learned about the permission to use Storm Shadow missiles against military targets in Russian territory.

“Today, we had the opportunity to discuss the practical implementation of this decision. I’m grateful to the UK for its unwavering support for Ukraine and our people.”

Sir Keir has a wider strategy as he pushes for a united defence against the threat of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the European continent.

With plans already moving to rewrite Brexit with a defence and security pact with the EU, Sir Keir’s first meeting at the summit was with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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After the meeting, a UK government spokesperson said: “The chancellor welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to resetting the UK’s European partnerships, noting how important our friendships with like-minded countries will be in a challenging international environment. They discussed the importance of having the widest possible cooperation across all aspects of the relationship.

“They agreed that the Nato summit was an opportunity to strengthen our support for Ukraine. The two leaders agreed a firm commitment to deepen in particular UK-Germany defence ties, working at pace to deliver those objectives.

“The prime minister and the chancellor look forward to meeting again at the European Political Community summit in the UK next week to continue these discussions.”

Sir Keir also set about building relations on both sides of the political divide on Capitol Hill, having meetings with Democrat Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell. He is due to meet Republican House speaker Mike Johnson and Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries.

But the most important meeting of the day was with Joe Biden, whom he was meeting for the first time since the US president called to congratulate him on his election victory last week.

The Labour leader is due to have a full bilateral meeting with the president and the two will meet again with their wives Victoria and Jill for dinner tonight at the White House.

Under the Tories, the special relationship cooled between the White House and Downing Street.

President Biden made it clear that he was unhappy about Brexit, particularly the impact on the Northern Ireland peace process.

When he visited Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, he held the briefest of meetings with Rishi Sunak in a cafe.

The difference between his warm welcome for the Starmers and chilly responses to Mr Sunak, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson has already been noted by officials.

Ms Truss felt forced to shelve US/UK trade talks because of the issues with the White House, while Mr Sunak never initiated them.

In contrast, Sir Keir has stated in an interview with The Independent that he believes he can get a trade deal “over the line” between the UK and US.

The prime minister is also throwing an eye forward to the US presidential election in November and the prospect of Mr Trump retaking the White House.

He has insisted that he will deal with whichever president American voters choose and still hopes to do a trade deal with a Trump administration if he is elected.



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