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One of the main events of January 2024 was the signing of a bilateral security agreement between Ukraine and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It happened on January 12 during the visit of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Kyiv.
The Agreement is vital for Ukraine because it contains a list of measures to be implemented by the United Kingdom regarding Ukraine. The Ukrainian version of the Agreement indicates the main components of security commitments provided to Ukraine by the United Kingdom in defense, security, and economic assistance. The document was signed ten years ago and is the first in a series of agreements agreed upon by the Group of Seven (G7) in July 2023 during a NATO summit in Vilnius.
As per the G7 statement, "Each of us will work with Ukraine on concrete, bilateral, and long-term security commitments and agreements."
Russian propaganda evaluated the Ukrainian-British security agreement as a document that would only contribute to the continuation of the war: "Political protocol without guarantees", "loss of Ukraine’s legal subjectivity", "due to the agreement, Ukraine will not be allowed to exit the conflict through negotiations". Russia needs to show the alleged decrease in support for Ukraine from the West, as well as the fact that the war "will continue until the last Ukrainian due to the instructions from Great Britain and the USA".
We will analyze the main theses of Russian propaganda about the security agreement between Ukraine and the United Kingdom in the general context of partners' obligations to support Ukraine.
According to the Agreement, "the main components of the security obligations provided to Ukraine by the United Kingdom in this Agreement" are three components: "provide comprehensive assistance to Ukraine to protect and restore territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders; prevention, active deterrence, and counteraction of any military escalation and/or new aggression by the Russian Federation; support Ukraine's future integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, in particular, supporting Ukraine's reform plans and compatibility with NATO."
To fulfill these tasks, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will support the training of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the development of the Naval Forces, and the Maritime Guard of the State Border Service. Special attention will be paid to the transition of Ukraine's defense and security sectors to the concepts and operational procedures of NATO. The amount of military aid to Ukraine from the United Kingdom in 2022 and 2023 has been 2.3 billion pounds annually, and in 2024, it will amount to 2.5 billion.
The text of the Agreement also mentions the United Kingdom's sanctions against Russia: London "will take decisive action with partners to combat all forms of sanctions evasion, as well as to strengthen its internal resilience to illicit financing linked to Russia and elites linked to the Kremlin". Moreover, a separate clause of the Agreement is devoted to cooperation in information security.
The document signed on January 12 is classified as security commitments, not security guarantees. As per it, "the United Kingdom will continue to support Ukraine during the ten years of this Agreement" (item 8, part II). According to the information from the British Parliament, the total amount of aid since February 24, 2022, has amounted to 12 billion pounds.
However, the security guarantees are different. Ukraine can only get them by becoming a member of NATO. Security guarantees imply the readiness of one state to fight for another. Currently, the partners are ready to provide Ukraine with weapons, train the Ukrainian military, and share intelligence data, but by no means send their troops to Ukraine.
There are several security models in international practice. One of them is the military-political organization NATO, which was created after the Second World War. At that time, the main guarantor of the security of the countries of Western Europe was the American troops stationed there. The Washington Treaty of 1949, which created the North Atlantic Alliance, contained a fifth article stating that an attack on one country would mean an attack on the entire organization. Article 5 was invoked only once — after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Then, the US called on its allies to start a war against international terrorism. Thus began the longest NATO war in history — the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years.
The second example of a security model is Korean. After the end of the Korean War (1950–1953), Korea was divided into two Koreas — the communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the pro-Western Republic of Korea. In October 1953, an agreement on joint defense was signed between Seoul and Washington. The document was designed to promote peace, protect against external threats, and strengthen collective security in the Pacific region. American troops are stationed on the territory of the Republic of Korea (the current number is 28,500 people). It is the main guarantee of the safety of Koreans against a potential attack from the DPRK or the People's Republic of China.
Another option for security cooperation is between the US and Taiwan. After the defeat in the civil war and the establishment of a communist regime in China, the leader of the Kuomintang Party, Chiang Kai-shek, along with his supporters, evacuated to Taiwan in 1949. Since then, Taiwan has become one of the key US allies in the East Asian region. After the People's Republic of China took Taiwan's place in the UN Security Council and diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington were restored, in 1979, the US Congress approved the Taiwan Relations Act. It stated that "the United States shall provide Taiwan with such defense products and defense services as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain an adequate self-defense capability as determined by the President and Congress."
Therefore, the US (not having formal diplomatic relations with Taipei) can provide military assistance to Taiwan with essentially no restrictions, based solely on the island's needs and the region's security situation.
The Kyiv Security Compact, prepared by the Rasmussen-Yermak group, became public in September 2022. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was the Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014 and now advises the Office of the President on international security guarantees for Ukraine. The Kyiv Security Compact states: "Ukraine's desire to join NATO and take advantage of its mutual defense agreements is enshrined in its Constitution. This aspiration is Ukraine's sovereign decision. In the interim, Ukraine needs firm security guarantees. They will come mainly — though not exclusively — from NATO countries."
However, the Kyiv Security Compact consisted of more general wording related to guarantees of further defense support from partners. Great Britain has now set an example for other G7 and NATO states in formulating security commitments.
On January 15, Natalka Cmoc, Canada's ambassador to Ukraine, said in a comment to "European Pravda" that Ottawa had already handed over the draft security agreement to Kyiv: "Back in September, during Zelenskyy's visit to Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau said that Canada wants to put its obligations regarding long-term support on paper — so that Ukraine is confident in the predictability of such support in the future." On January 26, a new round of Canadian-Ukrainian negotiations regarding the Agreement on security obligations took place.
The basis of the Ukrainian-British security agreement became the Agreement on Political Cooperation, Free Trade, and Strategic Partnership between Ukraine and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which was signed in October 2020 in London during the visit of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Agreement on strategic partnership was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in December 2020 and revised several times after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russia spread theses aimed to question the effectiveness and necessity of signing the Ukrainian-British security agreement. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, propagandist Maria Zakharova said that these are good promises to Ukraine, with nothing behind them: "Ukrainians were simply handed a set of promises, mostly of advisory assistance, wrapped in a bright wrapper, and all this was packed with good assurances of support for Ukraine, which do not have any legally binding force".
Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, propagandist Dmitry Medvedev, in his usual manner of speaking, once again "threatened" Great Britain in the event of further support for Ukraine: "I hope ... the British understand that placing their official military contingent in Ukraine will mean declaring war on our country."
Pro-Russian Telegram channels mentioned the Agreement as a "loss of sovereignty": "Our (Ukrainian — DM’s note) propagandists yesterday (January 12 — DM’s note) shouted all day long that it is a historic day, but this document testifies Ukraine's loss of legal subjectivity and complete subordination to the interests of Britain".
On the same Telegram channel, Russian propagandists also added a comparison table with the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, when Ukraine joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The document was signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with France and the People's Republic of China acting as observers. The essence of the memorandum was that Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances and compliance with the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the signatories. The Ukrainian version of the memorandum refers specifically to "security guarantees".
Moreover, in December 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated that "The Budapest memorandum proved that no agreements with Russia work if Russia retains the physical ability and motivation to violate them. Russia's defiant violation of its obligations underlines the need to develop a new high-quality system of security guarantees for Ukraine and the world, which will make it impossible to repeat Russian aggression".
Pro-Russian Telegram channels commented on the Budapest Memorandum to devalue the Ukrainian-British Agreement: "For the past two years, everyone has criticized the Budapest Memorandum, but it was signed in the format of equals," implying that Ukraine is not an equal partner in the bilateral Agreement. Commenting on the words of the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, regarding Kyiv’s readiness to defend Britain in the event of an attack by Russia, pro-Russian Telegram channels wrote: "The British tradition of using conquered nations as human power has not gone anywhere."
The Russian propagandist fantasy even connected the Ukrainian LLC European Lithium Ukraine acquisition by the Australian company European Lithium with the security agreement between Ukraine and Britain. Information about the sale of the Ukrainian company appeared on the same day the Agreement was signed, January 12. Because the final beneficiary of European Lithium is the British citizen Tony Sage, who lives in Australia, pro-Russian Telegram channels wrote that in this way, Ukraine settled "for security guarantees". At the same time, the Agreement on the sale of the Ukrainian company had been prepared at least since 2021 — two years before the war and three years before the conclusion of a bilateral agreement with Britain.
Furthermore, Russian propaganda promoted the thesis that the security agreement is a "betrayal" of Ukraine: the West allegedly forgot about Ukraine and is helping less, and the Agreement with the British seems to be more about Ukraine's obligations than about "security guarantees" from Britain. Propaganda also used this Agreement in its general narrative about "a war to the last Ukrainian, being waged in the interests of Britain and the USA".
Like other NATO countries, the UK is gradually coming to the opinion that societies should prepare for a potential war with Russia. Ukraine is currently defending its statehood from imperial ambitions and genocide on the part of Russia. Kyiv has the right to self-defense, and partners help Ukraine defeat the aggressor. But Russian propaganda stubbornly continues to impose the opinion that "Ukraine is a puppet of the West", and "the West has abandoned Ukraine", and calls its own aggressive war the "NATO's war against Russia using Ukrainians".
In reality, the UK is one of Ukraine's key partners and allies. The training of the Ukrainian military (Operation INTERFLEX) has been taking place on the territory of Britain since the summer of 2022, in which Canada, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Romania, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand also participate. Finally, in January 2023, Great Britain became the first country to announce the provision of combat tanks to Ukraine.