Expert warns Britain must triple £4.6bn Ukraine support to avoid World War 3

A win for Vladimir Putin in Ukraine could trigger World War 3 – so Britain needs to triple its £4.6billion support for the war-torn country instead of cutting it, an expert has said.

Analysts say the Russian president is playing a waiting game, believing Western support for Ukraine will eventually wane and Moscow will triumph over its neighbour.

Some have suggested the cost to the public purse of Britain’s military aid to the Ukrainians is putting a strain on the country’s finances, which also took a battering during the Covid pandemic.

Net debt stood at £2.599trillion at the end of September, equalling around 97.8 percent of UK GDP and 2.1 percentage points higher than the same time last year, according to the ONS.

But John R. Bryson, professor of enterprise and economic geography at the University of Birmingham, told a win for Russia would trigger major costs for Britons.

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He said: “The UK should triple its level of fiscal commitment to Ukraine. There should be no question in reducing the UK’s commitment to help the UK balance national accounts.

“There is a real danger Russia could win its war with Ukraine and any such win would result in major additional costs to the UK. A win in Ukraine for Russia could be the first step towards a full European war and such a war could easily escalate into World War 3.”

Professor Bryson added the new conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas has distracted attention from the Ukrainian conflcit as will the next UK general election.

But he said: “One would hope all UK politicians would see the sense of continuing to support Ukraine and to increase this support.

“It is important to remember Ukraine is only in this situation because European countries failed to respond appropriately to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and failed to support Ukraine in the period just before this war commenced.

“There were times when interventions would have deterred Putin and Russia and these times were ignored. Deciding to reduce the UK’s commitment to Ukraine would be a decision that is really about handing Ukraine to Putin.”

Dr Thilo Huning, a lecturer at the University of York’s Department of Economics, told World Bank estimates and those of other leading institutions underpin the macroeconomic stress the Russian invasion has put on the world economy, including Britain.

He added: “British shareholders as well as consumers have paid a massive price due to their increase in energy bills, which has also translated into higher prices for energy-intensive goods, including food.

“UK taxpayers’ contribution to shorten the duration of the war is in the interest of the British.”

Dr Huning said in the current situation, balancing the books is not the top priority, adding the Treasury is “well able” to help get the British people through this crisis, as it has with others.

He continued: “Instead of focussing on cuts, the Government needs a clear strategy to pursue economic growth.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already announced military support to Ukraine for 2023 will match the £2.3bn spent last year.

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A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:The UK and partners will continue to ensure we equip Ukraine as best we can to expel Russia and defend its sovereign territory, and that the capabilities we provide meet the tactical demands of the conflict as it evolves.

“We are liaising with the Ukrainian government and continue to respond to their requests to supply more weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

“Our support for Ukraine is unwavering, and the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary (Grant Shapps) have been clear that we’ll continue to back Ukraine to ensure they win this war and reclaim their sovereignty.”

Britain has supplied Ukraine with capabilities, including long-range artillery, air defence and armoured vehicles.

Since 2014, the UK has also been training Ukrainian forces, with about 50,000 personnel trained on British soil to date.

Polling undertaken by YouGov one year after Russia invaded Ukraine shows eight in 10 Britons (81 percent) want Kyiv to win the war, with half (52 percent) saying the West was not doing enough to stop the Russians from winning.

Forty-three percent of those polled said Britain should maintain the same level of support it was giving to the beleaguered country.

A little over a quarter (28 percent) wanted to increase the level of support, while 11 percent wanted to reduce support, according to YouGov’s poll.

Professor Bryson said: “Those who would argue the UK’s commitment to Ukraine should be reduced should consider the scale of costs the UK would experience that would come from Russia winning its war and then deciding to target other countries.”

“The UK’s Government’s current fiscal commitment to Ukraine is considerably less than the cost escalation experienced by HS2. Perhaps this is a poor comparison given the HS2 outcome, however, even tripling the level of support would have no real impact on the UK’s fiscal situation.”

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