Politics latest: Starmer in 'very unusual' position at 'all-important' first NATO summit (2024)

PM at NATO summit
  • The prime minister is in Washington DC for his first NATO summit, where he'll meet world leaders including Joe Biden and call for the alliance's members to spend more on defence
  • PM to 'reset' relations with allies - and send message to Putin
  • 'No change in UK support for Ukraine,' Starmer tells Zelenskyy
  • Mark Stone:Starmer in unusual position at all-important summit
  • Deborah Haynes:PM's 'contradictory' pledge looks weak to allies and foes
  • Sky News Daily:How does Starmer reach out to the world?
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker


We're focusing on the NATO summit in Washington this evening.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Sir Keir Starmer has held his first meetings with world leaders at his first NATO summit as prime minister, including with Germany's Olaf Scholz and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy;
  • As well as the summit itself, Sir Keir will also be heading to the White House for talks with Joe Biden- where he and his wife Victoria will also join a special dinner tonight with other leaders and their partners;
  • The PM will also find time to watch the England match with his Dutch counterpart and meet the US House Speaker Mike Johnson.
  • But the PM is under pressure to set a timeline forwhen the UK will hit the defence spending target of 2.5% of GDPgiven he wants NATO allies to spend more too;
  • Our defence and security editor Deborah Haynes says the government being non-committal on a timescale will look weak to both its allies and foes;
  • Nonetheless, our US correspondent Mark Stone reckons Sir Keir will be a welcome presence at the summit, given it comes less than a week after his landslide election win at a time when other Western leaders are struggling.

Also still to come tonight is Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge from 7pm.

Sticking with the NATO theme, she'll be joined by former Conservative armed forces minister James Heappey,


Why does this NATO summit matter?

This week's NATO summit, on the 75th anniversary of the alliance, is a crucial moment for Ukraine.

The Biden administration - under mounting pressure over concerns about the president's age - is seeking to bake in its support before the November election.

A second Donald Trump presidency and a dramatic shift in foreign policy.

For now, a new NATO command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training is being announced at the summit, alongside immediate military support, including air defence.

NATO's 32 members are poised to unveil "substantial" new aid and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said Ukraine is on an "irreversible" path towards membership.

Alliance partners have already said they will deliver five additional Patriot and other air defence systems to Kyiv.

It's quite the first summit for Sir Keir Starmer to attend...


NATO leaders assemble for family photo

We've just had a few shots from the traditional, so-called family photo of NATO leaders marking the start of their summit.

Sir Keir Starmer was among them for the first time, flanked by the alliance's outgoing secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Starmer and Biden pictured together

Sir Keir Starmer and Joe Biden have been pictured together for the first time.

The duo appeared next to one another as NATO leaders stood for photo opportunities with the alliance's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, and host Mr Biden.

It is Sir Keir's first picture with the leader of the US.

Earlier, it was announced Sir Keir was getting Mr Biden a personalised Arsenal football shirt as a gift.

A picture of the full NATO line-up will be taken later.


Sky News Daily: How does Starmer reach out to the world?

As the new prime minister makes his international debut at the NATOsummit in Washington – what does he need to do to make a quick impact with international colleagues?

On today's Daily, Niall Paterson is joined by political correspondent Tamara Cohen to discuss how Sir Keiris tackling his first overseas visit.

Plus,Lord Peter Ricketts, former diplomatand French ambassador,joins Niall to lookat Labour's wider foreign policy plans.

👉Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts👈


Starmer hopes NATO summit helps him 'reset' relations with foreign leaders

Sir Keir Starmer has spoken to the press ahead of the NATO council meeting.

He had just come from a bilateral summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (see previous post).

He said they discussed the further support Ukraine needs, and how NATO can help provide it.

Sir Keir said they also wanted to "reinforce a message to Putin", that NATO's resolve "is bigger now than it's ever been".

The prime minster added he'd had "very good bilateral meetings" with other leaders, giving him an opportunity to "make sure that those relationships are reset".

He said the UK wanted to lead on issues like defence, climate change, security, and energy.

Sir Keir then appeared with the alliance's outgoing secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.

PM meets outgoing NATO chief

The PM recounted how it was a Labour government that co-signed the treaty setting up the alliance, and he was pleased the UK had played an important part in it since.

He also praised Mr Stoltenberg for his decade in the role.

Mr Stoltenberg thanked the UK for its contributions to NATO, including the navy and air force patrolling the seas and skies of alliance territory.

He also thanked the UK for its defence spending, though Sir Keir faces domestic pressure to set a timeframe for increasing it.


'No change in UK support for Ukraine,' Starmer tells Zelenskyy

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the NATO summit in Washington DC.

It's their first meeting since last month's D-Day anniversary event at Normandy - a photo of them made it into Labour's manifesto.

Today's bilateral took place with Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Defence Secretary John Healey also present.

Sir Keir told the Ukrainian leader while there had been a "change of government", there was "no change of approach" to the UK's support for the war against Russia.

Zelenskyy thanks UK for support 'from very beginning'

The prime minister said the Russian attack on a children's hospital in Kyiv this week was "just shocking".

Mr Zelenskyy thanked Sir Keir for his words and the UK's support "from the very beginning of the war".

Watch PM and Zelenskyy's embrace:


'We will do it at pace': Defence secretary vows defence review will take less than a year

By Deborah Haynes, security and defence editor

A major review of UK defence will take place in "less than a year" and tackle some difficult decisions, the new defence secretary has said.

John Healey said a top priority will be reforming how the Ministry of Defence and its various branches function – something that will take time and "earns you no political bonus points".

Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington, he also signalled helping defend Europe from Russian aggression will be a higher priority than sending ships, jets, and soldiers on exercises to Asia.

A "tilt" to the Asia-Pacific had formed a central plank in the thinking behind the last government’s defence review.

'We will do it properly'

Mr Healey was asked by Sky News how long the "strategic defence review" – due to be formally launched next week – will take to conduct.

"We will do that in less than a year," he said.

"We will do it properly. We will do it at pace."

He said it would give an indication as to the "deep reform" required in defence, which wouldn't be a quick job.

On where to focus his military resources, the defence secretary said too often the UK "promised to do everything everywhere".

War in Europe, Russian aggression and NATO must be the priority, the Labour frontbencher said.


Mark Stone analysis: Starmer in very unusual position at all-important NATO summit

Sometimes in politics, timing is luck - and it's certainly on Keir Starmer's side today, says our US correspondent Mark Stone.

The prime minister is in Washington DC, where he'll be arriving for an "all-important NATO summit" with other world leaders.

Mark says "it's very unusual for a new British PM to be at the centre of the world stage so soon in his premiership".

This summit marks the 75th anniversary of NATO, at a time when the alliance comes under "significant pressure".

"The greatest pressure it's faced in its history, I would say."

Russia's war in Ukraine remains the priority, with the alliance having already reiterated its long-term support for Kyiv and announced fresh military aid - including new air defence systems from the US.

There's an "awful lot" for NATO leaders to discuss over the next two days and the new British PM will be right at the heart of it.


If you're just joining us in the Politics Hub, we'll be placing much of our focus upon the NATO summit in Washington this evening.

Sir Keir Starmer is there as part of his first foreign trip as prime minister.

We'll have live updates from the US capital, where he'll be meeting other world leaders like Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and analysis from our correspondents who are there.

Here are some of the key moments to come for the PM:

  • A meeting with outgoing NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg;
  • Taking part in the summit's official welcoming ceremony on what is the alliance's 75th anniversary;
  • Finding time to watch England take on the Netherlands at the Euros with Dutch PM Dick Schoof;
  • Meeting US House Speaker Mike Johnson;
  • Holding talks with Joe Biden in the Oval Office;
  • And enjoying a NATO leaders dinner at the White House, which his wife Victoria is also expected to attend.
Politics latest: Starmer in 'very unusual' position at 'all-important' first NATO summit (2024)
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