Why the UK Just Promised Long-Range Missiles to Ukraine – Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on February 18, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised that the United Kingdom would be the first country to provide long-range missile systems to Ukraine.
In his speech, the British PM also stressed the importance of continuing to provide NATO-standard weapons to Ukraine to secure the country’s long-term security.
The announcement could prove to be a pivotal moment in the war, with Sunak going above and beyond even what former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did while in office and promising to deliver weapons that U.S. President Joe Biden has remained hesitant to provide.
“Together we’re delivering as much equipment in the next few months as in the whole of 2022. And together we must help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones,” Sunak said.
“And that’s why the UK will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons. And it’s why we’re working with our allies to give Ukraine the most advanced air defense systems and build the air force they need to defend their nation.”
Why Is Ukraine Getting Long-Range Weapons Now?
There are at least two good reasons why Sunak is saying this now.
First, the British PM noted that longer-range missile systems will be crucial to help Ukraine protect its towns and cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drone strikes.
The missile systems could be used to take out Russian ammunition depots and prevent strikes from occurring, rather than being used to strike deeper into Russian territory, which has long been the top concern for European leaders and President Biden.
Sunak may also be looking to boost his position on the world stage and show the British people he is a friend of Ukraine ahead of local elections in May and a general election expected to take place in 2024.
Since taking over from former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, Sunak has struggled to improve the Conservative Party’s popularity and the Labour Party looks to be set for a comfortable win whenever the next general election is held.
While supporting Ukraine is likely to only do so much for Sunak’s fortunes ahead of two critical elections for the Conservative Party, every little helps, and Sunak being the first to offer long-range missiles is bound to have major implications for the war and Russia’s approach to diplomacy with the West.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.