Liz Truss and Ukraine: New Prime Minister Politics

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Liz Truss has become the third female prime minister of the United Kingdom and made history. However, it is pertinent to note that she previously served as foreign secretary, and for most of her term in that position, she oversaw the British response to the war in Ukraine. While, at first, Truss seemed focused on ensuring the promotion of peace between Russia and Ukraine through the prevention of war, she ended up hardening her stance. The latter was to such an extent that she advocated for a unified effort from NATO to support Ukraine in pushing Russia out of its territory militarily. Truss will likely increase her support for Ukraine to preserve her tough image and her long-standing stance on the need to defeat Russia in Ukraine.

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Truss Will Seek to Maintain a Tough Image

Throughout the leadership race to succeed Boris Johnson as UK prime minister, Truss promoted an image of herself as an authoritarian leader who could get things done. This action gained her considerable support from most of her party members to such an extent that she could trounce her closest opponent, Rishi Sunak. The importance of this move is that she will want to live up to her promise by taking on a tough stance on Russia. The latter means that she will probably increase the UK’s support to Ukraine regarding military assistance and economic aid to achieve her objective (Lander, 2022). In addition, Truss has taken on the same rhetoric as her former boss, Boris Johnson, in encouraging Ukraine to resist Russia and eventually push the latter out of its territory. The significance of this scenario is that Truss seems determined to achieve a military solution to the conflict in Ukraine and is unwilling to attain a negotiated settlement. She has noted that Russia is a bully that needs to be defeated since the UK has a long history of standing up to bullies. This stance is one that Truss is unlikely to give up because it has played an essential role in building her political profile. Instead, she will want to appear strong, which might be in her political interest to support Ukraine and escalate the conflict. It is likely that in her attempts to stand up to Russia, she will increase military aid to Ukraine regarding weapons and training to enhance Ukrainian resistance (Vinjamuri, 2022). However, while these efforts might be pertinent, perhaps her stance will change if Russia makes significant gains in Ukraine that might force a negotiated peace.

Pledge to Increase Support for Ukraine

Since running for party leader, she has consistently pledged to increase support for Ukraine once she is prime minister. Once she took office, one of her first actions was to call the Ukrainian president and promise that her government would continue its support for the war effort  (GOV.UK, 2022). Furthermore, she also promised to visit Kyiv soon to show solidarity. It is pertinent to note that as foreign secretary, Truss visited Ukraine numerous times and, as a representative of the British government, worked hand in hand with Zelenskyy. Therefore, she is viewed quite positively by the Ukrainian government and will likely continue the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine. However, it is noteworthy that Truss has previously not displayed consistency in taking stances. An example of such a scenario is when, before Brexit, she was one of the most prominent pro-EU voices in the Conservative Party, yet following Brexit, she turned out to be a Eurosceptic (Akage, 2022). This change in stance is crucial because it shows how Truss could change her stance concerning support for Ukraine if it suits her political gain. She has shown a willingness to continue the UK’s military support for Ukraine to ensure Russia’s defeat, an increasingly uncertain scenario.

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Conclusion

From her time as foreign secretary, Truss has shown herself to be an ardent supporter of Ukraine. She has shown a willingness to ensure that she not only advocates for Russia’s military defeat in Ukraine but has also spearheaded initiatives to support Ukraine militarily and economically. However, the reality is that Russia seems determined to stay in Ukraine for the long term, and the economic repercussions of the conflict, specifically the sanctions imposed on Russia, have begun to affect the UK. Therefore, while she might be determined to increase support for Ukraine, the economic realities might force Truss to factor in the domestic situation and make a more pragmatic approach to the conflict. In that case, the government will likely decide to reduce its military support to Ukraine and opt for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. On the other hand, the opposite could also be true because Truss might decide to enhance support, believing that Russia could be deterred. Her most immediate priority, however, is the economy and the need to reassure the British people that she is working in their interest.

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  1. Akage, A. (2022). Why Ukrainians Have Real Doubts About Liz Truss. World Crunch. https://worldcrunch.com/opinion-analysis/liz-truss-ukraine/particle-5
  2. Lander, M. (2022). Under Liz Truss, Britain is expected to double down on support for Ukraine. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/05/world/europe/liz-truss-ukraine.html
  3. GOV.UK. (2022, September 9). Prime Minister Liz Truss’s call with President Zelenskyy. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-liz-trusss-call-with-president-zelenskyy-6-september-2022
  4. Vinjamuri, L. (2022). How Brexit and Boris Broke Britain: The Next Prime Minister Will Struggle to Repair the Country’s Standing. Foreign Affairs online. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-kingdom/how-brexit-and-boris-broke-britain
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