Liz Truss has urged other nations to “step up” their defence spending after the UK committed a further £1bn in aid to Ukraine.
The foreign secretary said she regarded Nato’s requirement that countries spend 2% of their GDP on defence spending as a “minimum” and that we “now need to see as our allies and partners step up”.
The UK currently spends around 2.3% of its GDP on defence but the war in Ukraine has led to calls from Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, to increase that to 2.5% by 2028.
Wallace later denied the 2.5% figure but said it was clear investment needed to grow before it “becomes too late”.
In an interview with Sky News from the Nato summit in Madrid, Truss said: “What we now need to see as our allies and partners step up, because...some partners are still not spending the 2%,” she said.
“I see the 2% as a floor, it’s a minimum, and we need to make sure that we’re all contributing and making sure that the defence and deterrence is much more effective than what we have seen for the past 20 years, which I fear has enabled Putin to carry out this appalling war.”
Truss’s intervention comes as Boris Johnson is poised to announce a further £1bn in military support to Ukraine at the Nato summit today, taking the total package of assistance provided by the UK since the outbreak of the war to £2.3bn — behind only the United States.
The extra £1bn will be used to help Ukraine with new air defence systems, aerial vehicles, electronic equipment and kit for soldiers with the aim of allowing Ukraine to mount more of its own offensive operations against Russia.
Meanwhile, Truss refused to say whether she agreed with Wallace on increasing the defence budget, but said it must be “fit for purpose”.
“I agree that we need to make sure that all of the Western alliance is spending more on defence and putting more into … supporting our eastern allies,” she said.
“I’m not going to get into details of the negotiations of the spending review.
“I think it is imperative that we do make sure that our defence budget is fit for purpose and also able to deal with the modern challenges like cyber warfare, the issues that we face in space as well.”
In 2020 the prime minister announced an additional £24bn for defence in the spending review, allocated over four years.
But the government is facing criticism for plans it announced in March last year to cut 10,000 troops from the British army.
Asked about the cuts to the army, Truss said: “I support our plans on defence.
“But what I’m saying is we need to continue to evolve them as we face new and different threats. I don’t think any of us expected to see this type of war on European land in our lifetimes.”