Two days into the job, John Healey – the Labour government’s Secretary of State for Defence – visited Odessa, where he announced his first miliary aid package to Ukraine on 7 July 2024.

Following a meeting with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and talks with his own counterpart, Rustem Umerov, Healey declared a replenishment of a quarter of a million 50 calibre rounds, 90 Brimstone anti-armour missiles, ten AS90 artillery guns, 50 small boats, 40 de-mining vehicles and 61 bulldozers.

In addition, Healey also directed officials to ensure that the promised package in April of military aid is accelerated and delivered in full to Ukraine within the next 100 days. This previous pledge – the largest ever military aid package to Ukraine – includes 400 vehicles, 1600 strike and air defence missiles, including additional Storm Shadow long-range precision guided-missiles, 4m rounds of ammunition and 60 boats.

Ukraine is high on the agenda

“There may have been a change in government, but the UK is united for Ukraine,” affirmed Healey. “As the new Defence Secretary, I will ensure that we reinvigorate Britain’s support by stepping up supplies of vital military aid.”

‘Reinvigorating’ Ukraine with a rolling commitment of military supplies will also have an impact on Britain’s own war stocks as the new government looks to expand the Conservative’s £7.5bn ($9.61bn) endeavour.

UK Defence Secretary John Healey (left) shakes hand of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Credit: X.

The British Army will face growing depletion of its own AS90 units as a cost to the government’s desire to expand its support for the nation at war in Eastern Europe; this leaves dubious figures relating to Britain’s own ability to wage war.

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At the same time, the new Labour government has yet to commit to a roadmap for its undefined pledge to spend 2.5% of the UK’s gross domestic product on defence, while the previous government’s pledge to achieve this by 2030 came too late.

Investing in Britain’s defence industry

Britain will come to rely on its own defence industrial capacity to sustain its ambitious level of military aid to Ukraine.

Andriy Dovbenko, principal and founder of UK-Ukraine TechExchange – a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting startups in the two countries while contributing to Ukraine’s war effort – offered his thoughts.

“Labour has acknowledged the importance of defence and the investment required to not only safeguard the UK but its allies as well. However, a larger defence spend is necessary and this funding should not slip down the political agenda.

“The unspeakable atrocities in Ukraine have demonstrated that more than just increases to public defence budgets will be required to combat any threats. We also need to stay on the cutting edge of defence innovation and invest in emerging technologies that will help to achieve and maintain security,” he asserted.

“This will be aided by Labour acting on its pledge to promote innovation and prioritise UK businesses for defence innovation, so that these companies can reach their full potential.”