At the Security Conference in Munich (Germany) on February 18, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed that the United Kingdom would be the first country to deliver Ukraine long-range missile weaponry.
In his speech, the British Prime Minister also stresed the importance of continuing to provide Ukraine with NATO-compliant weapons to ensure the country’s long-term security.
The announcement could become a pivotal moment in the war, as Sunak goes further than even what former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did during his tenure and promises to hand over weapons that US President Joe Biden has been reluctant to provide.
“Together, we are going to deliver as much equipment in the coming months as in all of 2022. And together, we must help Ukraine protect its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones,” Sunak said.
“The United Kingdom, then, will be the pioneer in supplying Ukraine with such weaponry. That’s why we’re teaming up with our partners to help Ukraine equip its air force with cutting-edge defense equipment and help the country build up its air defense capabilities.”
Sunak’s comments come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited London and, during a speech before the British Parliament, specifically requested British fighter jets.
Why is Ukraine receiving long-range weapons now?
To Sunak’s credit, he has at least two valid justifications for making this statement right now. In the first place, the British Prime Minister mentioned how important long-range missile systems would be in assisting Ukraine in defending its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drone strikes.
European countries and Vice President Biden have long been worried that the missile systems could be deployed to strike farther into Russian territory, although this has never been the case.
Considering that municipal elections are in May and a general election is scheduled for 2024, Sunak may also try to improve his international standing and prove to the British people that he is a friend of Ukraine.
Sunak has struggled to increase the Conservative Party’s popularity since replacing Boris Johnson and Liz Truss as prime minister, and the Labor Party looks set to win easily in the next general election.
After Sunak’s first 100 days in office, a YouGov poll found that 61% of Britons had a negative opinion of him, with 34% having a “very unfavorable” opinion.
While backing Ukraine isn’t going to boost Sunak’s fortunes much before two crucial elections for the Conservative Party, every little bit helps, and the fact that Sunak is the first to offer long-range missiles is sure to have far-reaching consequences for conflict and the strategy of Russian diplomacy toward the West.