London, – Estonia has called on Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to commit to raising defence spending.
Mr Sunak has not matched a pledge by his predecessor Liz Truss to boost defence spending from 2 per cent to 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030, having previously described such targets as “arbitary”.
When asked in a BBC interview if NATO countries should aim to spend 3 per cent of GDP on defence, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said: “Absolutely.”
He also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “game-changer”.
“Autocrats are investing in weapons,” he added.
“They believe in (the) power of arms.”
“To defend our values – the rules-based order – we need also to invest in the weapons,” he said.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who survived Sunak’s reshuffle in the same role, would be on resignation watch if the government backtracks on the defence spending commitment.
Reinsalu also asked the UK not to cut troop numbers in Estonia, saying “we love UK soldiers” and “we want more”.
It came after the government was criticised by opposition parties earlier this month for appearing to be “shamelessly walking away” from Estonia, amid reports almost 700 British troops deployed to the country were being withdrawn without any planned replacements.
“Are we successors of Chamberlain or Churchill?” Mr Reinsalu asked the BBC, referring to the late prime ministers.
Sunak on Tuesday evening held his first call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, pledging the UK’s “steadfast support” for his country, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added: “The Prime Minister said the United Kingdom’s support for Ukraine would be as strong as ever under his premiership, and President Zelensky could count on his Government to stand in continued solidarity.” (PA Media/dpa/NAN)