Britain’s top diplomat on Tuesday cautioned that a long-awaited Ukrainian offensive against Russia may not prove decisive as he urged sustained support for Kyiv.
On a visit to Washington, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called for ramped-up military aid to help Ukraine win as quickly as possible — but warned not against pinning excessive hopes on the upcoming operation.
“They have demonstrated themselves to be very, very effective defenders of their country, but we need to recognize that there might not be a simple, quick, decisive breakthrough,” Cleverly said at the Atlantic Council.
“I hope and expect they will do very, very well, because whenever I’ve seen the Ukrainians they have outperformed expectations.
“But we have to be realistic. This is the real world; this is not a Hollywood movie,” he said.
He called for Western powers “to have the resolve to continue to do the right thing” no matter how the offensive progresses, including the prospect of “escalatory words” from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If we don’t, what’s at stake is of immeasurable importance,” he said.
Ukraine has for months been preparing a spring offensive aimed at taking back territory seized by Russia, which invaded in February 2022.
Britain has been at the forefront of support for Ukraine and was the first to send Western tanks to Kyiv.
President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday announced another $1.2 billion in US military aid, but has held off on some items on Ukraine’s wish-list including long-range missiles and fighter-jets, seeking to avoid a more direct Western confrontation with Moscow.
Former president Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner to challenge Biden next year, has voiced skepticism about aid for Ukraine and predicted a Russian victory.
Without commenting directly on the 2024 US election, Cleverly said it was critical to commit in the long term to Ukraine.
“If we signal to the world that we have only about 18 months worth of staying power, then we create a more dangerous environment for the future,” he said.