The West should consider any Russian call for a cease-fire in its war against Ukraine “completely meaningless” in the current circumstances, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday.
Speaking in Riga during a summit of leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a military alliance of 10 Northern European countries, Sunak warned Russia would only use a halt in hostilities as an opportunity to regroup its forces.
“We must be clear that any unilateral call for a cease-fire by Russia is completely meaningless in the current context,” he said. “I think it would be a false call.”
A Kremlin spokesman last week said a cease-fire over Christmas was “not on the agenda,” but some in the West suspect Moscow may push for one if it continues to lose ground in Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
Sunak said the Kremlin must withdraw Russian troops from “conquered territory” before any real negotiations for peace can start, without specifying whether that should include Crimea. Until that happens, Ukraine’s allies should focus on discussing “security assurances,” he said.
Sunak meanwhile said Western allies should be “very strong” at calling out Iran over its supply of drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. He urged the continuation of efforts to undermine Russia’s supply chains and erode its economic capacity to wage war against its neighbor.
Announcing a £250-million contract to ensure supply of artillery ammunition to Ukraine throughout 2023, Sunak pressed Western allies to supply Kyiv with more air defense systems, artillery and armored vehicles. However, he did not touch on Ukraine’s repeated calls for long-range missiles — supported by Sunak’s predecessor Boris Johnson.
Speaking at the same summit via video link, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on JEF leaders to step up their provision of air defense systems, amid a barrage of attacks by Russia over the last few days.
“100 percent air shield for Ukraine, that would be one of the most successful steps against Russian aggression and this step is required right now,” he told the meeting via video link.
JEF, a security coalition focused on northern Europe, is led by the U.K. and comprises Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
Monday’s meeting also included talks on joint work to protect critical national infrastructure and make progress on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO.