Britain has run out of defence equipment to donate to Ukraine and other countries should step in and shoulder more of the burden, a senior military chief has said.
The comments come after Ben Wallace revealed that he asked Rishi Sunak to spend £2.3 billion more on support for Ukraine before he resigned as defence secretary last month.
Mr Wallace warned that the UK had been overtaken by Germany as the biggest European military donor to Ukraine as he called for the 50 per cent increase on funding that the UK has committed so far.
The Western alliance has suffered a series of blows in recent days, with support for Ukraine dropped from a US stop-gap budget bill, election success for a pro-Russian party in Slovakia and rows between Poland and Kyiv over grain supplies.
On Monday, the Kremlin claimed that Western fatigue with the war “will grow”. The White House replied that Vladimir Putin was wrong to think he could outlast the pro-Kyiv alliance.
‘We’ve given away all we can afford’
Last night a senior military source told The Telegraph that the onus should not be on the UK to provide the “billions” Mr Wallace has called for.
“Giving billions more doesn’t mean giving billions of British kit,” they said, adding that the UK had a role to play in “encouraging other nations to give more money and weapons”.
“We’ve given away just about as much as we can afford,” they added.
“We will continue to source equipment to provide for Ukraine, but what they need now is things like air defence assets and artillery ammunition and we’ve run dry on all that.”
On Monday Mr Sunak was forced to insist that the UK’s commitment to Ukraine would not “waver” in the light of Mr Wallace’s comments.
“You will continue to see us provide substantial support,” his official spokesman told reporters.
Meanwhile Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said Putin would be “foolish” to believe that internal political rows in the West were a sign that support for Ukraine was beginning to crack.
He suggested the possibility of Donald Trump winning the next US election would not necessarily result in the “worst-case scenario” of America cutting its support.
The UK has already committed 14 Challenger 2 tanks, M270 multiple-launch rocket systems, a heavy-lift drone and Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine since the start of the Russian onslaught.
Thousands of anti-tank weapons, short-range missiles and armoured vehicles have also been given by the UK to Ukraine.
‘Every tank we give is one less we have’
The military chief said there was no prospect of providing more British tanks to Ukraine.
“We’ve given away pretty much everything we can afford to give,” they added.
“The Challenger 2s that we have will become Challenger 3,” they said.
“We need them to upgrade them to become Challenger 3. Every tank we give away is one less that we have.”
The growing concerns over Western funding for Ukraine threatened to overshadow what was described as a “historic meeting” of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv.
Call for co-operation
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, told them his country’s victory over its Russian occupiers “explicitly depends on our co-operation” after the US Congress passed an emergency spending bill that will cut off aid for Ukraine from next month, unless further agreements are approved on Capitol Hill.
The EU’s top foreign diplomat, Josep Borrell, insisted that the bloc’s support for Kyiv would be steadfast amid the upheaval in Washington.
“We are facing an existential threat. Ukrainians are fighting with all their courage and capabilities, and if we want them to succeed we must give them better weapons, and faster,” he told reporters in Kyiv before the gathering.
“I am hopeful that this decision is not final and that the US will continue to support Ukraine,” Mr Borrell added.
Brussels last month overtook the US in promised aid to Kyiv, with European commitments now twice as large, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank that has been tracking funding for Ukraine.
Cracks in support
The shift came as the EU promised to provide Ukraine with €50 billion (£43 billion) in long-term aid until 2027.
The EU and Nato both have concerns about cracks in support as the conflict drags into its 20th month.
Pro-Russian populist Robert Fico won a national election in Slovakia, a member of both organisations, and promised not to send “another bullet” of military aid to Ukraine.
Hungary, whose leader celebrated Mr Fico’s victory, was also holding up a planned €500 million tranche of funding to help EU member states pay for weapons donations.
Its opposition has also dealt a blow to a planned €20 billion war chest from EU nations for Ukraine to buy weapons for the next four years, highlighting the challenges faced by the West.