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Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister: how will Britain’s policy toward Ukraine change?

Rishi Sunak is replacing Liz Truss as the Tory Prime Minister of the U.K. He will have two years to save the Conservatives from being defeated at the 2024 general election. What policy will he pursue regarding Ukraine and why shouldn’t we expect him to reiterate Boris Johnson’s fervent gestures?

@material: https://thepage.ua/ua/politics/rishi-sunak-yak-premyer-velikoyi-britaniyi-chi-pidtrimaye-vin-ukrayinu

The Page spoke with Volodymyr Fesenko, Chairman of the Board of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies, and Petro Burkovskyi, Executive Director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, about Kyiv’s expectations of the new British PM.


Rishi Sunak will try to distance himself from Ukraine

Rishi Sunak will offer no dazzling gestures toward Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Rishi Sunak will offer no dazzling gestures toward Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Both Fesenko and Burkovskyi say the key question is who will hold the posts of Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary in Sunak’s government, as he will be concerned with the domestic problems of the U.K.

These problems are plenty and they have delivered a hard blow to the Conservatives who promised the British people that their living standards would improve after Brexit. Instead, the voters saw a crisis in the public finances, high inflation, and soaring energy bills. The war in Ukraine is another factor that affects London’s ability to balance its domestic economy.

Nevertheless, there will be no major changes in Britain’s overall stance on Ukraine, argues Volodymyr Fesenko.

Quote"More news that is not so good for Ukraine is that Rishi Sunak and his cabinet will be focused on British domestic problems, which are now the top priority for them," he pointed out.

Burkovskyi echoes his point and argues that Sunak will likely try to distance himself from the war in Ukraine and focus on domestic issues to prepare the Tories for the 2024 general election.

However, if the politician fails to restore the Conservative Party's reputation, this cabinet will be forced to resign in 8-10 months. If it happens, Labor could be able to call for an early election. And since all the current polls give them the upper hand, the new British government will be completely different.

The Conservative Party is going through its largest crisis since the Second World War, Fesenko added.

Rishi Sunak offers no dazzling gestures

Rishi Sunak will be focused on Britain's domestic problems. Photo: Getty Images

Rishi Sunak will be focused on Britain's domestic problems. Photo: Getty Images

Rishi Sunak’s efforts to solve domestic problems and save both the economy and his party will certainly distract him from foreign policy issues. We shouldn’t expect him to make dazzling gestures like Boris Johnson did, Boris Fesenko warns. However, the political scientist advises not to be too concerned about them.

Quote"But speaking about gestures, the Ukrainians are rather guided by emotions, but let me give you one example. The total amount of aid to Ukraine from Poland exceeds that from the U.K. Hence, it’s not about gestures."

He believes that all military programs in support of Ukraine that are now being implemented will be maintained.

However, there is no certainty about how long Rishi Sunak’s government will hold out, the political scientist noted. He warns that Rishi Sunak is a rich man who is accused of various connections with business, and there are hints of corruption.

For Ukraine, the main problem is not that the rhetoric of the British government might change, but the lack of stability. Such frequent changes of governments of our major ally is not a good sign.

By far, Rishi Sunak has been taking advantage of the fact that he, although a Brexit supporter, was not at the forefront of it, Burkovskyi points out. He believes that Sunak won't advocate for a return to the EU but will try to pursue a moderate policy — in particular regarding Ukraine.

Who will be responsible for Britain’s policy regarding Ukraine?

Rishi Sunak will farm out foreign policy to two secretaries. Photo: Getty Images

Rishi Sunak will farm out foreign policy to two secretaries. Photo: Getty Images

Petro Burkovskyi, just like Volodymyr Fesenko, believes that Sunak’s attitude toward Ukraine will be colder, but foreign policy will be farmed out to the Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary.

Quote"As a more mercantile person in his political career, Rishi Sunak can become a kind of British version of Olaf Scholz, saying they agree to help Ukraine but their priority is the interests of the U.K.," Burkovskyi noted.

According to him, if Ben Wallace remains Defense Secretary and the post of Foreign Secretary is held by someone who’s lower in the Tory hierarchy, it will be up to Wallace to define the policy of support for Ukraine.

Quote"Foreign policy may be farmed out to either of the secretaries (the Foreign or Defense Secretary) who has more influence in the party," he explains.

Volodymyr Fesenko added that the U.K. would maintain its support for Ukraine as it’s one of Britain’s own interests.

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