The UK’s New Security Pact With Ukraine

The agreement will benefit U.K. arms exporters, open Ukraine further to Western investors and increase “counter-disinformation” operations against Russia, writes Mark Curtis. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a NATO meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 12, 2023. (NATO, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Mark Curtis
Declassified UK

  • U.K. will provide “equipment across land, air and sea” in any future Russian attack

  • British arms firms have sent £437 million worth of equipment to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion

A new agreement signed by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on 12 January provides U.K. “security commitments” to Ukraine in the event of “new aggression” by Moscow.

It states

“In the event of future Russian armed attack against Ukraine, at the request of either of the Participants, the Participants will consult within 24 hours to determine measures needed to counter or deter the aggression.”

It then says the U.K. “undertakes” to “provide Ukraine with swift and sustained security assistance, modern military equipment across all domains as necessary.”

Strikingly, the text also encourages Ukraine to “provide effective military assistance” to Britain in the event of an attack on the U.K. — similar to NATO’s mutual defence pledge — although it does not make this a formal commitment for Kyiv.

Zelensky used the words “security guarantees” or “guarantees” when describing the agreement at a press conference in Kyiv following its signing.

Sunak has tended to use the phrase “security assurances.” The text does not refer to “guarantees” but to “security commitments.”


From left, Zelenskyy, Sunak, U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius, July 12, 2023. (NATO, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Some commentators say such “commitments” are toothless and do not provide a hard defence guarantee. They compare them to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum when Ukraine agreed to give up its Soviet nuclear arsenal in exchange for “security assurances” which never materialised.

Neither has the agreement yet been ratified by either country’s parliament, meaning its legal position is uncertain. 

Perhaps most importantly, the accord does not explicitly commit Britain to despatching military forces to Ukraine by providing boots on the ground. However, a risk is that it could embroil the U.K. in any future war with Russia. 

Describing the agreement in Parliament, Sunak stated that “if Russia ever invades Ukraine again, we will provide swift and sustained assistance, including modern equipment across land, air and sea. Together with our allies, the U.K. will be there from the first moment until the last.”

The accord is a further step towards NATO membership for Ukraine. It increases U.K. military cooperation with Kyiv intending “to deepen Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO,” “accelerate Ukraine’s transition to NATO equipment and standards” and develop “a pathway to a future in NATO.”   

The accord has arisen from NATO’s summit in Lithuania last July in which G7 states pledged to make a series of bilateral security agreements with Ukraine.

More Arms

But the agreement goes beyond security commitments, and Britain’s arms exporters will likely be major beneficiaries. 

In a section on “defence industry cooperation,” the text says the U.K. will work with arms companies and Ukraine to “identify opportunities for closer defence industrial partnerships and collaboration including for mutual commercial benefit.” 

Britain “will encourage its defence industry to work with Ukraine” on “manufacturing of U.K. defence products” in the country. 

Zelenskyy and Sunak in Kiev, November 2023. (President of Ukraine, Flickr, Public domain)

The Ukraine war has been a boon for U.K. arms firms. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, they have exported £437 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine – over 12 times more than they sold in the previous 10 years. 

Both Babcock and BAE, the U.K.’s largest arms exporter, have recently set up offices in Ukraine, positioning themselves to secure new deals. 

BAE’s agreement with Ukraine will “ramp up the company’s support to Ukraine’s armed forces” and enable BAE “to work alongside” them “to… support its future force structure.”


A section in the text on “information security” notes that Britain will also help Ukraine counter Russian propaganda “globally” — or “support each other’s efforts to tell the truth well,” as the document quaintly puts it. 

The two countries will work together “offering the world a truthful alternative to the Russian Federation’s disinformation campaigns” which will involve “closer collaboration of communications output.”

Britain’s Foreign Office is already spending millions on private “counter-disinformation” groups which tend to support U.K. government policy positions, such as over Ukraine.

Declassified found before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the British government ploughed at least £82.7 million of public money into media projects in countries bordering or near Russia in the four years to 2021.

The U.K. government’s funding of the “counter-disinformation” industry looks more like an information operation in itself rather than a neutral effort to combat fake news.

Private Sector

Sunak, center, with, from left, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Latvia’s then Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Estonia’s President Alar Karis at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London in June 2023. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street)

A  further commitment is ensuring Ukraine promotes pro-Western economic policies through reforms and postwar reconstruction. 

“Before this terrible war, Ukraine’s economy was becoming a huge investment opportunity,” then Foreign Minister Leo Docherty said at the Ukraine Recovery Conference hosted in London last June.

That conference urged “international businesses” to invest in Ukraine in its “ambitious reform agenda,” including “reducing the size of the government,”  “privatization,” “deregulation” and “investment freedom.”

The new agreement reinforces these goals. Ukraine will have “a strong private sector-led economy… that is integrated into global markets,” the text states. This involves Kyiv fully implementing IMF reforms, promoting measures “to increase investor confidence” and “unlock private investment.”

In this, the U.K. will “support” activities in economic sectors such as energy, infrastructure and tech.

Mark Curtis is the editor of Declassified UK, and the author of five books and many articles on U.K. foreign policy.

This article is from Declassified UK.

13 comments for “The UK’s New Security Pact With Ukraine

  1. Krzysztof Mró?
    January 25, 2024 at 13:28

    O tym kto b?dzie móg? inwestowa? na Ukrainie b?d? decydowali Rosja I Chiny. I nikt wiecej

  2. Casey G
    January 24, 2024 at 17:57

    Well, how confusing. I read this a.m. that Zylensky— is always accusing Russia of some crime— But apparently, Ukraine blew up a plane load of Ukrainians who were being returned in exchange for Russian ones. So Ukraine blew up its own soldiers in the prisoner exchange. That sounds like Zelensky.

  3. January 24, 2024 at 17:45

    This is merely a PR ploy to divert from the military reality on the ground and Russia’s crushing victory (the western leaders and media have been lying about from day 1)..

    There won’t ever be another Russian invasion (Sunak’s “again”) after the Russians imposed conditions to end the current conflict.

  4. bardamu
    January 24, 2024 at 15:23

    You have to wonder at what point such agreements mean that Ukraine cannot exist as a separate state at all.

  5. Eric Foor
    January 24, 2024 at 14:30

    This “security pact” should make us all nervous. The West is further intwining itself into a precarious alliance that could well precipitate WWIII. A single confrontation could unleash a world wide nuclear exchange. Such a spark could be a single personal tragedy to anyone who may have access to the firing procedure of only one weapon. We should remember how WWI began…that war took 37 days from spark to ignition. The current reaction window could be 37 minutes.

    Western leaders must offer a compromise to end the war in Ukraine….if they cannot understand this…we need new leaders. We should be looking for beneficial trade opportunities…not enemies to make war with. A world beyond the control of western financial institutions must be acknowledged and respected. Either we compromise on this….or there will be another world war.

  6. firstpersoninfinite
    January 24, 2024 at 14:10

    “”A section in the text on “information security” notes that Britain will also help Ukraine counter Russian propaganda “globally” — or “support each other’s efforts to tell the truth well,” as the document quaintly puts it.””

    You can only counter propaganda globally if you plan to enlist the help of a global cabal to censor free speech. I think this entire spectacle is what they call a “limited hangout,” in which you give news of changes you have made or plan to make to our shared reality, but you don’t tell the whole story of what you plan to do. That gives you plausible deniability later against being accused of lying. And to say that you plan to tell the truth well, means, well, you don’t plan to tell the truth. The truth is just the truth – it doesn’t need to be told well or badly to still be true. It just needs to have validity to facts.

  7. anaisanesse
    January 24, 2024 at 14:03

    Mark must get really bemused writing about this nonsensical “plan”. How pleased the “UK” must be to have another idiot PM who will delight that his friend Volodomyr will help protect his island kingdom from the evil Russkies.
    ” BAE, the U.K.’s largest arms exporter”, we remember, was under the patronage of the man who is now King Charles 111 at the time of Iraq-war PM Tony Blair.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    January 24, 2024 at 10:59

    But of course Western investors end up profiting. It was meant to be this way from day one – never mind defending/standing up for ‘democracy’. I truly feel sorry for the average Ukrainian…his country being sold out to the highest Western bidders.

  9. Tim N
    January 24, 2024 at 10:41

    So, Sunak and the rest of the simpleton neoliberals who run Britain are trying to turn Ukraine, a country they helped to destroy, into a neoliberal fascist paradise, eh? That will not end well at all.

  10. Lois Gagnon
    January 24, 2024 at 10:22

    They will do to Ukraine what they tried to do to Russia under Yeltzin until Putin kicked them out. That’s what all this is about. Austerity for the 99%, 1% oligarchs controlling the system. Welcome to freedom and democracy Ukraine.

  11. susan
    January 24, 2024 at 10:15

    Oh goodie, more fake war so that the oligarchs can get even richer – what a crock of you know what!

  12. Drew Hunkins
    January 24, 2024 at 10:04

    It’s just so bananas: the supposed pervasive “disinformation” Russia spews non-stop in profusion to Western audiences must be the most maladroit pathetic and ineffectual propaganda in the history of the world since hundreds of millions of American, U.K. and Western European citizens are still thoroughly convinced Putin’s Satan and Russia’s leadership is the worst thing the world’s seen since the Third Reich.

    Some propaganda.

  13. James White
    January 24, 2024 at 07:57

    This is all just Rishi Sunak virtue signaling when he is not busy deflecting. Ukraine’s war is a lost cause and has been since before it began. But the people who led us all into this quagmire remain desperate to avoid being held responsible for what they have done. Sunak has used the war to deflect attention from the E.U. desire for vengeance for Brexit.
    The U.S. forced the Ukraine war on Europe through NATO. Everything about the war has been a loss for Europeans. Europe has been stripped of arms and cash in a losing effort. This year will deliver a reckoning to the likes of Scholz, Von der Leyen and the E.U. parliament. The failed war effort hangs over the heads of Macron and others across Europe. It has brought recession to Europe and deindustrialization to Germany. The ‘Greens’ have been exposed as mere war mongers and the desperate Socialists of Europe have run out of other people’s money. Zelensky is the poster child of Europe’s shrill propaganda in the face of 3 solid years of posturing and decline.
    Will the Brits ‘change course’ by switching to Keir Starmer? That kind of ‘change’ will only lead to another oversized portion of the same old crap. The British House of Lords can’t even summon the will to pass a measure to deal with uncontrolled immigration. London looks more and more like Rome in the final days where Senators offered up the leadership role in the square to low bids.
    Soft, easy times make for weak people and that is where both Europe and the U.S. stand today. It is all a sad and pathetic spectacle.

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