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Starmer and wife Victoria land in Washington DC for NATO-Biden meeting as PM accused of ‘playing with fire’

Starmer and wife Victoria land in Washington DC for NATO-Biden meeting as PM accused of ‘playing with fire’
Starmer and wife Victoria land in Washington DC for NATO-Biden meeting as PM accused of ‘playing with fire’

SIR Keir Starmer has landed in Washington DC today for a crucial NATO summit, amid huge pressure to quickly increase defence spending.

The prime minister, along with his wife Lady Victoria, will meet US President Joe Biden and European leaders to discuss strengthening the alliance in an increasingly unstable world.

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Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria step off their plane at Joint Base Andrews in Washington to attend the 75th anniversary of the NATO summitSource: AP

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The Prime Minister landed in the early hours of the morning UK timePhoto: Simon Dawson / No. 10 Downing Street

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On board the plane to Washington DC, Sir Keir answered questions from reporters about the UK’s commitment to increasing defence spendingSource: AP

Against the backdrop of war in Ukraine and a powder keg in the Middle East, Sir Keir is being urged to confirm a date for his pledge to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

Philip Ingram, a former colonel in British military intelligence, told The Times the prime minister was “playing with fire” by delaying planning for the increase.

He said: “The threat is there now and it will take years to repair the army and our ammunition supplies and get the RAF and Navy ready.”

This morning Defence Minister Luke Pollard urged a new strategic judgement in defense spending, starting next one week, will chart a path to 2.5 percent.

The report looks at Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, instability in the Middle East and the rise of authoritarian countries such as China and Iran.

The capabilities of the British military in the light of increasing threats are also being examined.

Mr Pollard told Times Radio: “This will be a strategic defence review conducted primarily by NATO. The focus here is on our unwavering commitment to the North Atlantic and to the European area. We want to keep not just the UK safe, but our allies safe too.

“Because if we don’t support Ukraine and if they don’t win, then Russia won’t stop there.”

In the US, Sir Keir will say at the 75th anniversary of the NATO meeting that he is determined to defeat our adversaries.

The prime minister is expected to say at the summit – his first foreign trip as prime minister – that boosting spending will protect the alliance.

Sir Keir said: “There is no more important task for me as Prime Minister than to keep the people of our country safe.

“At a time when we face multiple threats at home and abroad, we must ensure that we are prepared to defend ourselves.

“That is why I have immediately ordered a thorough review that will secure Britain’s defence for the future.

“By working with our key partners around the world, our Strategic Defence Research will ensure the UK sends a clear message to those who would undermine peace and democracy: you will not succeed.”

The Prime Minister will make clear to his fellow leaders his determination to ensure the UK becomes a “leading defence player” on the global stage, stressing that Western allies “will triumph over tyranny”.

But the pressure to reach 2.5 percent goal has increased since Russia bombed a Ukrainian children’s hospital on Monday.

Pressed by reporters on the plane to Washington DC, Sir Keir said: “We are committed to the 2.5%, as I said before the election and as I will say again after the election.

“That obviously depends on our budget rules, but the commitment is there.

“The strategic review will take place next week and we will announce the details of that.

“The promise in the manifesto was that it would happen within a year. I would quite frankly like it to happen sooner and we will set out the details of how we are going to do it.”

Admiral Lord West, former Chief of the Navy and former Labour Security Minister, said: “There is no doubt that we are dealing with a depleted armed forces.

“There are serious doubts about whether the armed forces are able to do what the nation expects of them and we need to invest some time in it. money urgently.”

Starmer could strengthen the armed forces

By Harry Goodwin

Prime Minister Keir Starmer said last night that the UK has an “ironclad” commitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence.

He said increasing defense spending could help NATO respond to threats around the world.

Sir Keir will launch the new government’s Strategic Defence Review next week.

The research will look at the changes the British armed forces need to undergo to deal with threats such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Insiders said this could pave the way for an expansion of the armed forces, they told the Telegraph.

But Sir Keir refused to give a timetable for when Britain will reach the 2.5% target.