US and UK vow to maintain support for Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’

The United States has signalled that it is ready to further step up its military assistance for Ukraine as Britain and American vowed to maintain their support in the struggle against Russia “for as long as it takes”.

Following talks in Washington with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, US secretary of state Antony Blinken welcomed the UK’s decision to supply Kyiv with British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

He indicated that the US would be making further announcements in the coming days, with defence secretary Lloyd Austin due to host talks with key allies in Ramstein in Germany later this week.

“We have continuously provided what Ukraine needs and we are doing it in a way that makes sure we are responsive to what is actually happening on the battlefield as well as projecting where it might go,” he said.

“We are determined to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to succeed on the battlefield.”

While Britain has promised to send 14 Challenger 2s, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for some 300 modern Western battle tanks to enable his forces to take the offensive against the Russia aggressor.

In practice this is likely to mean US Abrams tanks and German Leopard 2s – or a combination of the two – which are potentially available in far greater numbers than the Challenger 2.

Mr Cleverly, who his in Washington to urge the Americans to go “further and faster” in their support for Ukraine, praised US efforts to date pointing out that it was the biggest single supplier of assistance – both military and economic – to Ukraine.

He said the US and UK have worked “hand in glove” – along with other allies – since the start of the conflict to ensure Ukraine had the support it needed.

“Never in living memory has Russia been more isolated and the Atlantic alliance more united,” he said.

“If Putin believed that the world would succumb to Ukraine fatigue and lose the will to resist his ambitions then that was once again another colossal misjudgment on his part.”

Mr Blinken also reiterated the White House’s call for a negotiated settlement to the dispute between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly during a news conference in the State Department
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly during a news conference in the State Department (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

“The United States believes there must be a negotiated settlement to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol that is acceptable to all sides,” he said.

“We are heartened that in recent days the United Kingdom and the European Union have made substantive progress toward a negotiated solution.”

Mr Cleverly said he had updated his US counterpart on his negotiations with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic to try to end the dispute.

He played down, however, attempts to achieve a settlement by the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April for a possible visit to the UK by President Joe Biden.

“We recognise the US president’s – and indeed the whole of the US government’s – desire to see this resolution,” Mr Cleverly said.

“It mirrors our desire to get these things resolved and indeed I believe very strongly mirrors the European Commission’s desire to get these things resolved.”

“We do these things because they are the right things to do, not because we are trying to hit a particular date or anniversary. We want to get these things resolved as soon as possible can.”

Mr Blinken also condemned the “politically motivated and unjust” execution by Iran of the dual British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari for spying charges.

“We will continue to work with the United Kingdom and other partners to hold Iran’s leadership accountable to these and other abuses,” he said.