Shapps insists Putin would be ‘foolish’ to think allied support is waning

Vladimir Putin would be “foolish” to believe internal political rows in the West were a sign that support for Ukraine is beginning to crack, Grant Shapps insisted yesterday.

The Defence Secretary suggested the possibility of Donald Trump winning the next US election would not necessarily result in the “worst case scenario” of America cutting its support.

The Western alliance has suffered blows with support for Ukraine dropped from a US stop-gap budget bill, election success for a pro-Russian party in Slovakia and disputes between Poland and Kyiv over grain supplies.

But Mr Shapps told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Moscow should not over-interpret domestic wrangles.

He said: “It’s very easy to sit here, think about the single issue of Ukraine, frame everything in that context and forget about domestic politics. It’s always a mistake to think in that way.”

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President Joe Biden is facing the prospect of shutdowns due to financial rows but Mr Shapps said this was a feature of US politics and resulted in “odd and unusual blips in their budgetary process”.

He went on to claim the Warsaw and Ukraine row should be seen in the context of Polish elections. Asked if Putin would see cracks in the Western alliance and be prepared to wait it out in the hope support for Kyiv crumbles, Mr Shapps said the Russian leader would be “foolish if he misinterpreted those signs”.

With the US election next year and the possibility of Mr Trump returning to the White House, there are concerns in Kyiv about the continuation of US support.

But Mr Shapps said: “I don’t think it’s entirely clear what would happen if Trump won the election. One thing we do know about Trump is he has a big issue with China. No, I don’t think the worst case scenario is Trump because what then happens would be the real question.”

But Mr Shapps stressed the UK would continue to “take a leadership role” in supporting Ukraine.

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