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Sunak promises to boost UK defence spending by 2030

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledges to boost spending to 2.5% of GDP, putting the defence industry on a ‘war footing’.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he would lift defence spending to 2.5 percent of the country’s annual GDP by 2030, saying the British arms industry must be on a “war footing” when the world is at its most dangerous since the Cold War.

Standing alongside NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg, Sunak said the United Kingdom would spend an additional 75 billion pounds ($93bn) over six years to increase the production of munitions and drones, making the UK the second-largest defence spender in NATO.

He said one of the central lessons of war in Ukraine was that countries needed deeper stockpiles of munitions, and the ability to replenish them more quickly.

“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” he said. “As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values.”

His remarks came on the heels of a new pledge to send arms worth 500 million pounds ($622m) to Ukraine, including missiles, armoured vehicles and ammunition.

Sunak has been under pressure from his governing Conservative Party to boost defence spending more quickly after previously saying he could do so only “as soon as economic conditions allow”.

The rise, from about 2.32 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), could also weaken potential leadership challengers who have championed defence, before an election this year which Sunak’s party is expected to lose.

The commitment would take defence spending for 2028/29 from approximately 73.8 billion pounds to 78.2 billion pounds, partly funded by a previously announced plan to cut the size of the civil service.

The opposition Labour Party said earlier this month it would aim to hit the 2.5 percent target “as soon as resources allow”.

Sunak’s commitment could help the UK if Donald Trump wins re-election to the US presidency this year. Trump has frequently taken aim at the failure of many of NATO’s 32 members to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence.

He made the announcement on one of his first international trips for months, where he met Stoltenberg and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. He will meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday.

Huge backing for Ukraine

The UK has been one of the most vocal and active backers of Ukraine and the news followed Sunak’s pledge to increase military support for Ukraine by 500 million pounds to take its total for this financial year to two billion pounds.

He also said the UK’s financial support would continue at least at its current level for the rest of the decade, or as long as needed.

That was welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, including in a call with Sunak earlier on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian leader has repeatedly called for more air defence systems to protect Ukraine from Russian bombardments, and Germany has spearheaded calls for members of the NATO military alliance and beyond to step up on deliveries.

The UK’s announcement came three days after the US House of Representatives approved $61bn in aid for Ukraine, as American lawmakers raced to deliver a new round of US support to the war-torn ally. The Senate was expected to vote on the package later this week.

Ammunition shortages over the past six months have led Ukrainian military commanders to ration shells, a disadvantage that Russia has seized on this year – taking the city of Avdiivka and currently inching towards the town of Chasiv Yar, also in the eastern Donetsk region.