Starmer reaffirms Britain’s commitment to Ukraine at Nato summit

Finland’s prime minister describes tightening coalition of Nato allies in northern Europe as transforming Baltic Sea into a ‘Nato lake’

UK prime minister Keir Starmer and US president Joe Biden during a meeting at the Nato summit in Washington, DC. Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Keir Starmer has reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to Ukraine in his first conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskiy since becoming prime minister of the UK.

Mr Starmer confirmed that he spoke to the Ukrainian president on Wednesday morning as Nato allies continued to project the message at its Washington summit that the alliance is stronger and more committed than ever to helping Ukraine repel Russian forces.

“I made it absolutely clear that as far as the UK is concerned, the change in government makes no difference to the support we will provide,” Mr Starmer said. “We were united in opposition and it was really important for me to be able to reaffirm that. I didn’t speak to him immediately after I was sworn in last week. So we build on that here at this important summit because it is an opportunity for Labour to reaffirm our commitment to Nato. We obviously signed the original treaty way back.”

Mr Zelenskiy started the day by publicly thanking, via X, Belgium and Norway for their commitment to the provision of F-16 fighter jets which, he said, would be vital in bringing “just and lasting peace closer, demonstrating that terror must fail everywhere and at any time”.


Ukraine had been lobbying for the air defence jets for more than a year, and believes they will prove crucial in repelling Russian missile attacks.

In his afternoon address US president Joe Biden warned that Russia is “significantly ramping up” weaponry production “with the help of China, North Korea and Iran”, and said Nato will become more innovative and competitive in its defence efforts.

Speaking of the broader threat to European security, Finland’s prime minister Petteri Orpo described the tightening coalition of Nato allies in northern Europe as transforming the Baltic Sea into a “Nato lake”. He predicted that Russian president Vladimir Putin would see the folly of trying of make any advances towards their borders.

“We don’t fear anything,” he told reporters. “We plan for everything. That means we look at different scenarios, but to be honest I think that the deterrents we have right now – Finland, Sweden, Norway, all of us being part of the alliance, I don’t think it makes any sense for Russia to make any moves in that direction.

“The Baltic Sea is now a Nato lake with an extremely strong defence artillery. I don’t see the direction of Putin going to the Baltic Sea at all. What we need to do now – and I follow the words of secretary general [Jens] Stoltenberg – is that the more we support Ukraine now the sooner we can end the war. Coming eastbound or westbound from the Russian perspective is not a good idea.”

Finland’s application to join Nato was ratified on 2023 and its presence along with the newest member Sweden has been flagged by speakers as further evidence of Nato’s vitality on what is the 75th anniversary of its founding year.

Outgoing secretary general Mr Stoltenberg, who received a presidential Medal of Freedom from Mr Biden on Tuesday evening, said that one of the remarkable aspects of Nato over the decades is that it has transcended the ideological differences of the various governments and countries who have joined.

“The reality is that despite all the differences we have proven extremely resilient and strong because when we face the reality, all the different governments and traditions and parliamentarians realise that we are safer and stronger together,’’ he said, adding that while the alliance will remain regional it faces threats which are global.

“The North Atlantic region faces global threats. That is nothing new. Cyber is global, space – which is becoming more and more important for our armed forces – is truly global and of course the threats and challenges that China poses to security is global. So we will remain a global alliance, but we need to work with our global partners. That, I guess, will be a very important issue at the next summit.”

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times