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14 Jul, 2023 18:07

UK defense minister walks back ‘ungrateful’ Ukraine comments

Ben Wallace has declared that it’s the “international community” and not him that wants to see more “gratitude” from Kiev
UK defense minister walks back ‘ungrateful’ Ukraine comments

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace claimed on Friday that his comments about Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s lack of “gratitude” for the UK’s military support were “misreported,” and that his government will keep “helping Ukraine procure what they need to triumph.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania earlier this week, Wallace told reporters that “people want to see a bit of gratitude” from Kiev. Recalling a trip to Ukraine last year in which he was immediately presented with a list of demands from his Ukrainian counterparts, Wallace described telling the Ukrainians that Western countries are “not like Amazon.”

Wallace’s remarks triggered a sarcastic response from Zelensky, who offered to “wake up every morning and personally thank the minister.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, Wallace insisted that he never meant to criticize the Ukrainian leader.

“I talked about the need for Ukraine to sometimes recognize that in many countries and in some Parliaments, there is not the strong support that there is in the UK,” he wrote. “This was not a comment about governments, but more about citizens and MPs across the international community,” he pointed out, adding that he’d continue to “reach out to the other citizens who still need persuading.”

“The comments on ‘Amazon’ were made last year and were made to highlight that Britain’s relationship with Ukraine is not ‘transactional’ but more a ‘partnership’,” Wallace claimed. 

However, the British defense minister is not the only Western official irked by Zelensky’s manners. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made a similar public remark in Lithuania, asserting that “the American people do deserve a degree of gratitude from the US government for their willingness to step up [and aid Ukraine] and from the rest of the world as well.”

The UK has provided Ukraine with £4.6 billion ($6.03 billion) in weapons and other military aid since Russia’s military operation began last February, while the US has committed more than $42 billion. While Washington has outspent London almost sevenfold, British officials have been among the most zealous of Ukraine’s Western backers, with the UK the first country to offer Kiev main battle tanks, long-range missiles, and training on F-16 fighter jets.

Describing himself as “someone who has been at the forefront of galvanizing support for Ukraine,” Wallace said that he would keep working “towards the shared aim of helping Ukraine procure what they need to triumph.”