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In his remarks on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that Western countries must “help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones and that’s why the United Kingdom will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons.”
According to Sunak, the UK government is working with its NATO allies to “give Ukraine the most advanced air defence systems and build the air force they need to defend their nation.”
“[The United Kingdom] is ready to help any country to provide Ukraine planes they need today, but we must also train Ukrainian pilots to use advanced jets,” he added.
Sunak’s escalation comes as the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern that China is considering moving from “providing rhetorical, political, diplomatic support to Russia” to “providing lethal support to Russia.” Should that happen, Blinken has warned that it would have “serious consequences” for Chinese-American relations.
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Over the past year, the UK has provided almost £4 billion in aid to Ukraine, with £2.3 billion of that given in the form of military aid that included weapons, ammunition, and other military gear and equipment.
After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Ukraine earlier this month, the UK parliament began considering sending fighter jets and long-range missiles to Kyiv.
The two types of long-range missiles being considered are the 150-mile range Harppon high-explosive, which is an anti-ship missile, and the 350-mile range Storm Shadow cruise missile. Kyiv has said that if it receives the missiles, they will be used to expand the war by launching an assault on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine back in 2014.
It is also possible that the British long-range missiles could be used to target Russian territory, which could easily escalate the conflict from a localized war to a full-scale global conflict.
Sunak has also suggested that NATO add a “new charter” in its agreement in order to “help protect Ukraine from future Russian aggression.”
When Zelensky visited London earlier this month, he and Sunak signed the London Declaration, in which Britain recommitted to its stance of supporting Ukraine’s admission to NATO, which Russia has cited as a cause for the invasion, saying that having NATO expand to its doorstep is a “red line.”
Despite, threats from the Kremlin, the declaration states, “[t]he UK has continued to lead the way in support for Ukraine to defend itself, including anti-tank weapons and tanks. Our military support to Ukraine is enduring. UK support will continue to contribute across all three domains; Land, Air, Sea.”
The UK was not the only country calling for additional aid for Ukraine at the Munich conference. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that the world should prepare for a “long war” and called for Germany’s Western allies to continue to supply Ukraine with more weaponry, tanks, and ammunition.
Despite French President Emmanuel Macron initially being a proponent of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, he announced in Munich that now is “not the time for dialogue.” Hopes for a peaceful resolution were further diminished when Zelensky stated that he would not accept any peace agreement if it required territorial concessions to Russia, which is likely to be seen as a non-starter for Moscow.
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