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We can outlast Russia in Ukraine, Lord Cameron tells Nato

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and Anthony Blinken (US Secretary of State) watch David Cameron (UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) and Hakan Fidan of Turkey in conversation
David Cameron talks with Hakan Fidan, his Turkish counterpart, at the meeting on Wednesday - Polaris / eyevine

Nato can outlast Russia in Ukraine, David Cameron told allies on Wednesday, saying its combined economic might was 30 times greater than Moscow’s.

Addressing his first Nato meeting as Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron called on member states to harness their collective advantage to deliver Kyiv enough weapons to defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces.

The meeting in Brussels came amid concerns in Ukraine over dwindling Western support while the conflict in Gaza continues.

However, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, urged allies not to “underestimate Russia”.

He warned that Moscow had placed its economy on a war footing, amassed a large stockpile of missiles ahead of winter and had the manpower to overcome Ukraine’s defences.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, insisted his country would not “back down” in its fight, but urged Kyiv’s Western allies to be as “resilient” in their support as Ukrainians have been in their battle.

‘I’ll be building consensus’

As Nato foreign ministers met in the Belgian capital, there were fears that a lack of military aid could force Kyiv into premature peace negotiations from a position of weakness.

Western officials insist they remain committed, despite the distraction of the war between Israel and Hamas, and are not pushing Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, into a territorial compromise.

But arriving at the meeting, Lord Cameron suggested there was still work to do on securing the full backing of Nato’s 31 member states.

“Two weeks ago I was in Ukraine saying we need to do everything we could to help the Ukrainians repel this appalling aggression by Putin,” the Foreign Secretary told reporters.

“I’ll be building consensus for that view here at Nato.”

The Telegraph understands Lord Cameron told a private session that Nato allies must use their combined economic might to ramp up weapon production in order to outlast Russia.

He said allies should seek to sign more multi-year, multi-country deals to convince arms manufacturers to increase production to meet Ukraine’s demands for at least the next two years.

Mr Kuleba said the task would require Ukraine and Nato’s defence industries to gear themselves towards ensuring Kyiv continues to receive the supplies it needs to defeat Russia.

British manufacturer BAE Systems and 20 French defence firms have already opened operations in Ukraine with a view to eventually starting production there.

“We need to create a Euro-Atlantic common area of defence industries,” said the Ukrainian foreign minister, adding that the EU’s own effort to send one million 155mm artillery shells by next March had only delivered 300,000 to date.

Blinken tackles US aid question

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, also sought to tackle claims that Washington’s support could soon dry up as hardline Republicans in Congress continue to stall a $60 billion (£47.2 million) aid package for Kyiv.

“Some are questioning whether the United States and other Nato allies in truth continue to stand with Ukraine as we enter the second winter of Putin’s brutality,” Mr Blinken said.

“But the answer here today at Nato is clear and it’s unwavering. We must and we will continue to support Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, a senior US State Department official said Putin would not consider peace talks until after the upcoming US presidential election next November, which is likely to pit Donald Trump against Joe Biden in a rerun of the 2020 vote.

“My expectation is that Putin won’t make a peace or a meaningful peace before he sees the result of our election,” said the official, who said it was a “widely shared premise”.

“That was the context in which the allies all expressed strong support for Ukraine”

Nato allies vowed to “remain steadfast in their commitment to further step up political and practical support to Ukraine” in a joint statement issued after Wednesday’s meeting.

Separately on Wednesday, reports claimed barriers erected by Russia to protect the Crimean bridge from Ukrainian attacks had reportedly been washed away by a “storm of the century” that battered the Black Sea region.

The booms deployed to protect the road and rail crossing from Ukrainian seaborne drones have likely been washed away in the storm, an open source researcher reported.

The Crimean bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, connects the Russian mainland to the occupied peninsula which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Pens that once held Russia’s specially-trained dolphins deployed to protect the Black Sea naval fleet and Crimea had also likely been washed away in the storm, MT Anderson, a second open source researcher, reported.

It emerged last week that Moscow and Beijing have discussed building an “underwater tunnel” connecting mainland Russia and occupied Crimea amid mounting Russian fears that the Kerch Bridge, which has been successfully struck twice by Ukraine, remains vulnerable.

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