Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of “simply misunderstanding” the importance of having military stockpiles as the UK throws its support behind Ukraine. Whitehall sources have accused the former chancellor of not being “interested” in defence as they urge the Government to consider allocating more funds to the defence ministry in time for the Spring Budget on March 15. It comes as Britain prepares for a minute’s silence on Friday to honour the “bravery” of Ukraine a year into the Russian invasion of their country.
Whitehall and defence industry sources have told Sky News that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed how past assumptions on what would be needed to fight a war were far too small.
They said an urgent review was needed into how much funding was allocated to the replenishment of dwindling military stockpiles as the UK is spiralling towards a situation where they are unable to defend themselves.
They urged Rishi Sunak to boost military spending to fund a massive expansion in total munition stores or else risk no longer being able to support the Ukrainian armed forces at the level needed to sustain their war effort, let alone secure Britain’s own defences.
The sources said they feared Mr Sunak “has no interest in defence and security”, adding that “those charged with that in Number 10 can barely get access to him”.
One Whitehall source described the situation as “really sobering”, while another said the Prime Minister “is a financier who simply can’t understand these things”.
Another added that the visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “was engaged with late and with only peripheral passing interest”. They said that if issues facing Britain are “not domestic or economic”, they “do not feature” for Mr Sunak.
A government spokesperson, however, strongly disputed the characterisations and pointed to a previous increase in defence spending as evidence of Mr Sunak’s interest.
“These claims are baseless and untrue,” the spokesperson said. “It was the prime minister who, as chancellor, agreed to the 2020 spending review that provided the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the largest increase in defence investment since the Cold War.”
The new review into stockpile requirements has been taking place as part of a wider refresh of UK defence and security policy, the sources said.
They warned that any significant uplift in the size would require new funding, which has so far not been guaranteed.
It comes as Rishi Sunak will use the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to urge fellow world leaders to “move faster” in arming the country’s troops.
After 12 months of conflict, the Prime Minister is expected to use a G7 meeting on Friday to urge allies to supply longer-range weapons to Ukraine, stressing the urgent need for Kyiv to gain a “decisive advantage” on the battlefield.
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The UK will hold a national minute’s silence to mark the anniversary, amid fears that the war could drag on for at least another year.
“For Ukraine to win this war – and to accelerate that day – they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset. This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence,” Mr Sunak is expected to tell G7 leaders in a virtual meeting.
“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are over-reaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to re-arm, regroup, and push forward.”
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