Sunak’s call to arms: Now is the time to double down on weapons for Ukraine

Prime minister to tell Munich Security Conference Ukraine needs ‘Nato-standard capabilities’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 17 February 2023 22:21 GMT
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Rishi Sunak will urge the West to give Ukraine “advanced, Nato-standard capabilities” to win its war against Russia, in a speech to leaders at an international security summit this weekend.

The prime minister will tell the Munich Security Conference that Ukraine’s allies need to “double down” on sending equipment, and that more needs to be done to ensure the country’s “long-term security”.

The intervention comes as the British government is investigating whether it could supply Ukraine with fighter jets, with Mr Sunak saying “nothing is off the table”.

The PM will argue in his Saturday afternoon speech that Ukraine’s fight is “about the security and sovereignty of every nation”, and will call for international law to be strengthened.

“Now is the moment to double down on our military support,” he is expected to say. “When Putin started this war, he gambled that our resolve would falter. Even now he is betting we will lose our nerve. But we proved him wrong then, and we will prove him wrong now.”

The prime minister will add: “We need to do more to boost Ukraine’s long-term security. We must give them the advanced, Nato-standard capabilities that they need for the future. And we must demonstrate that we’ll remain by their side, willing and able to help them defend their country again and again.

“What is at stake in this war is even greater than the security and sovereignty of one nation. It’s about the security and sovereignty of every nation. Because Russia’s invasion, its abhorrent war crimes and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, are symptomatic of a broader threat to everything we believe in.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky pushed Rishi Sunak to supply jets to help win the war during a visit to the UK last week

Downing Street says £2.3bn of UK military support was given to Ukraine in 2022 – including a squadron of advanced Challenger 2 tanks, 200 other armoured vehicles, and more than 10,000 anti-tank missiles and multiple-launch rocket systems.

Mr Sunak has previously said that he wants the support provided in 2023 to exceed that level. The UK will begin training Ukrainian pilots in the spring in a bid to bolster Kyiv’s air-power capabilities.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited London, Paris and Brussels last week to make the case for the West to send planes to boost his air force. But the UK is relatively short on multi-role fighter jets, having retired its Tornado GR4 planes four years ago to save money.

Defence experts say that other jets, such as the F-35 Lightning and Eurofighter Typhoon, may not be suitable because of their highly complex supply chains and maintenance requirements.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said earlier this week that he did not expect jets from the UK to be deployed in the next few months “or even years”, adding that a fleet of fighter jets would involve “hundreds of engineers and pilots”.

The US is the largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine, providing around $29bn (£24bn) worth of assistance since the invasion began. The UK is the second-largest donor.

Speaking on the first day of the Munich conference on Friday, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would soon be able to deploy its first batch of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Mr Scholz approved the deployment of 88 of the tanks earlier this month, following criticism from allies that Germany was not doing enough to help.

The first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is fast approaching, with a minute’s silence expected to be held across the UK at 11am on Friday 24 February.

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