Cameron admits he is meeting US politicians with ‘great trepidation’ but is passionate about Ukraine

British foreign secretary defends ‘entirely proper’ meeting with Trump during election year

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 09 April 2024 21:48 BST
Antony Blinken addresses 'challenge' of supporting Ukraine

British foreign minister David Cameron appeared alongside his US counterpart on Tuesday and made an impassioned case for aid to Ukraine even as he promised not to “lecture” US leaders in his meetings this week.

His visit to the nation’s capital followed a trip to Mar-a-Lago, where former President Donald Trump held court on Monday evening at a dinner where the two were joined by British Ambassador Karen Pierce. The Independent has reached out to Mar-a-Lago insiders for more details about the dinner, which were scant across social media. A readout from the Trump campaign indicated that the two had discussed unsurprising topics — Brexit and Ukraine, as well as the death of Queen Elizabeth.

Lord Cameron declined to comment on the content of his meeting with the former president, only defending it as “proper” and noting historical precedent. He focused his remarks on the violence in Ukraine and Gaza, and in particular the need to shore up Ukraine’s military at a desperate moment.

“Future generations are going to look back at us and ask, ‘Did we do enough?’” he said.

Standing next to the US Secretary of State at a press conference, Lord Cameron said that he would be in meetings with US lawmakers through the week as the legislative body continues to debate a stalled bill that would provide aid to both Ukraine and Israel’s militaries, which has pased the Senate but remains frozen in the GOP-controlled House. Part of the issue: a rebellion from Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of a number of conservatives opposed to further Ukraine aid, who is threatening a motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson over the bill’s potential passage.

When speaking with members of Congress, Lord Cameron said, he tries “to keep the diplomatic language, but sometimes it spills over into quite emotional language because this is the right thing to do,” said the foreign secretary.

“I always do this with great trepidation,” he explained, as “it’s not for foreign politicians to tell legislators in another country what to do. It’s just that I’m so passionate about the importance of defending Ukraine against this aggression.”

Ms Greene previously lashed out at Lord Cameron earlier this year over the issue. After the foreign secretary urged western politicians to not “give in to tyrants” and likened the moment to Germany in the 1930s, Ms Greene told reporters that the top diplomat of America’s top ally could “kiss” her “a**”.

Though Lord Cameron told reporters on Tuesday he would be meeting with lawmakers in both parties, Ms Greene is not likely to be on the list. Neither was Speaker Mike Johnson, arguably the man with the most power over the fate of the legislation: it was reported on Tuesday that a meeting between him and the foreign secretary couldn’t be fitted in the speaker’s schedule. The foreign secretary has made it clear, however, that he will plead the case for Mr Johnson to get aid to a floor vote as quickly as possible.

It remains unclear when Ukraine aid will make it to the floor of the House, or whether it will still be coupled with aid to Israel when it is. Though both pieces of legislatoin are likely to pass either way, some House Democrats including Nancy Pelosi have asked the Biden administration to halt weapon transfers to Israel. Criticism of an Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers with celebrity chef and DC restaurateur José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen charity has made passage of the aid package all the more complicated. Three British citizens were among those killed in the precision strike, which occurred as they were in a convoy of vehicles clearly warked with WCK logos.

Mr Blinken, echoing statements the administration has been making for weeks, once again urged Mr Johnson to put the aid package to the floor for a vote. The chamber recessed last month without taking up the legislation, which was passed by the Senate in mid-February, even as the Biden administration and Ukrainian leaders have made clear that the eastern European country is in dire need of further military assistance.

“The supplemental budget request ... is urgent and it’s imperative since the House is now back in session. We look to see that brought before the House and to get a vote as quickly as possible,” said the secretary.

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