7 June 2022

More Western countries must follow Britain’s lead – Ukraine’s survival depends on it

By

While the UK was going through its Jubilee jubilation, we Ukrainians have now marked 100 days in our war of existence against Putin’s Russia.

The enemy continues to make advances in the east and the south of the country, and spiteful irregular missiles are still hitting Kyiv – including one in the early hours of Sunday.

That attack seemed designed to put flesh on the bones of fresh threats from Putin, who said in his regular weekend interview that Russia would hit ‘new targets’ if the West supplied long-range missiles to Ukraine. Such a statement might have been met with foreboding three months ago, but given the scale and indiscriminate nature of the Russian assault, it’s hard to see what critical targets the Kremlin has not already attacked.

Residential buildings and private houses, libraries and museums, maternity wards and children’s hospitals – all have been targeted by Russian missiles in countless attacks. Whole cities have been reduced to rubble – are we really supposed to believe the worst is still to come?

In that context – and notwithstanding Boris Johnson’s leadership travails – it was reassuring to see the recent announcement from the British government about delivering the M270 long-range rocket system to Ukraine. The US will also step up its already substantial military aid by sending the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The MLRS complexes are crucial for the Ukrainian fightback – they can strike targets within a range of 80km with great precision and represent a marked improvement in firepower. The timing could not be more crucial either. With the battle raging in the Donbas, the M270s and similar advanced weapons can help the Ukrainian military push back Russia’s advance around Severodonetsk and Izum, and save our territory from the sort of brutal occupation we witnessed in Bucha and Boridianka. 

Should the Russians succeed in enclosing the Luhansk region, they will be able to advance further south. During his latest press conference for Ukrainian journalists on Monday, President Zelenskyy said that intercepted intelligence shows Russia’s intent to take Zaporizhzhia, if they succeed in the east and that will open up the whole of central Ukraine to Russian targeting. Be in no doubt, the threat of Russia seizing the whole of Ukraine is still real. 

To prevent that, Ukraine still badly needs the world’s help, and it needs it now. Every day of delay costs hundreds of lives, and that’s only counting soldiers, not the many civilians killed by Russian shelling. If only the West had delivered this kind of heavy artillery a month ago, Putin’s eastern advances might have stalled. With the UK’s MLRS coming in shortly and the American lend-lease weapons arriving sometime around mid-July, Ukraine needs to hold out for the next two weeks at all costs.

At least the UK and the Americans are actively helping us though. France’s Emmanuel Macron is making absurd statements about ‘not humiliating Russia’, while Italy’s government suggests Ukraine gives up some of its territory and calls it a day. 

The plain fact is that Ukraine’s most reliable partner in Europe remains the United Kingdom, and the internal ructions here are causing concern in Kyiv. It’s fair to say that British policy towards Ukraine would likely remain resolute whoever is in 10 Downing Street, but nonetheless there is a sense of relief among Ukrainians that Boris Johnson prevailed in yesterday’s no confidence vote.

The UK is not just our closest friend in terms of military, humanitarian and legal aid, it is leading the way on the new security partnership agreement that will unite several eastern flank Nato countries in providing security guarantees to Ukraine. Whatever the ins and outs of Westminster politics, the big picture is that by supporting Ukraine so steadfastly, the UK is proving its Global Britain mettle and has the chance to be a driving force in central and eastern Europe for years to come.

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Aliona Hlivco is Strategic Relations Manager at the Henry Jackson Society.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.