Britain believes U.S., Poland will maintain strong Ukraine support

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – British defence minister Grant Shapps said he believed that the United States and Poland would maintain their strong support for Ukraine despite domestic pressures related to their upcoming elections.

Britain would continue to back Kyiv regardless of what happened elsewhere as it had since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, he said.

A weekend U.S. budget deal to avert imminent government shutdown did not include aid for Ukraine, while Poland, which elects a new parliament on Oct. 15, has said it would no longer agree to new arms deliveries to Kyiv but rebuild its own stocks.

Shapps, who on Sunday announced Britain was sending 4 Typhoon jets to Poland, said it was understandable that any tensions over backing for Ukraine would surface during an election but Poland’s support had been “magnificent” so far.

“I very much hope and believe that when the elections happen there and things are more settled, a sensible, common sense approach will be taken,” he said at an event at the Conservative party conference.

His comments echoed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said last week he was confident that Poland would continue to support Ukraine after its elections despite recent harsh rhetoric towards Kyiv.

There is also uncertainty over U.S. support for Ukraine, given budget wrangling and a presidential election in November next year. President Joe Biden has urged Republican lawmakers to back a bill to give Ukraine more aid.

“I think we’re a long way from the U.S. withdrawing its support,” Shapps said, citing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s comments that he expects U.S. support to continue regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.

Shapps added that people shouldn’t “over-read” into the machinations of U.S. budget process and that people were assuming a “worst case scenario” from the election that might not happen.

Asked if the worst case scenario was the election of former President Donald Trump, seen as a likely Republican presidential candidate, Shapps said: “No, I don’t think the worst case scenario is Trump because what then happens will be the real question”.

“Britain will, regardless of what happens elsewhere, take a leadership role.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Philippa Fletcher)