Boris Johnson’s visit to Kyiv is notable not only for its unannounced nature but for the additional package of support for Ukraine it has heralded. The Prime Minister pledged 120 armoured vehicles, new anti-ship missile technology, and a further £385 million in World Bank lending. The government will also permit tariff-free imports of Ukrainian goods to the UK, something requested by Volodymyr Zelensky.
The announcement followed on the heels of extra military hardware, set out yesterday, which included anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, as well as precision-strike kamikaze drones. That package totalled £100 million and is additional to the £394 million in grant aid to fund humanitarian services. Today’s package takes Britain’s overall loan guarantee for Ukraine to roughly three-quarters of a billion pounds.
While domestic criticism has focused on the sluggish pace of the Home Office’s processing of refugees, the redoubled assistance to Zelensky’s government underscores the two fronts on which the UK’s response has been mostly sound: hardware and financial backing. Britain has not been a perfect ally to Ukraine — no one has — but it has been more prescient, reliable and determined than many others.
That sticks in the craw of those for whom Ukraine is just another battle in the culture war. To them Boris’s response has to be dreadful because Boris is dreadful and Britain is dreadful for voting for Boris and both are dreadful because of Brexit.
If we have learned anything since the 2016 referendum, it is just how heaving the UK’s educated middle classes are with cranks, obsessives, fantasists, conspiracy theorists and downright crackpots. Now they must contend with the man they have convinced themselves is a Russian asset flooding Ukraine with weaponry to blow up Vladimir Putin’s tanks and help Zelensky humiliate him on the world stage. That’s some serious deep cover.
Since this conflict is about the Ukrainians, and not the mercurial fixations of British politics, we might want to listen to what the Ukrainians have to say. Following the Prime Minister’s trip, Zelenskyy’s office was quoted as saying:
‘The UK is the leader in defence support for Ukraine. The leader in the anti-war coalition. The leader in sanctions against the Russian aggressor.’
The Twitter account of the Ukrainian parliament posted:
‘We are strengthening our union of democracies. Be brave, like Boris. Be brave, like Ukraine.’
Even those of us who are consistently critical of Boris — and perhaps especially us — should acknowledge his solid handling of this crisis. It has not been without its flaws but it has shown the Prime Minister in a light not previously seen: a conscientious statesman. Saying so does not represent an endorsement of the rest of his premiership, it represents an admission of reality.
When a friendly nation was invaded by its imperialist neighbour, in an act of unprovoked aggression, the Prime Minister acted quickly, with clarity and with resolve. He gave Ukraine our solidarity but, more importantly, he gave them our missiles and our money. In whatever small measure that has helped Ukrainians defend their homeland from an especially barbaric assault, it is greatly appreciated by them and should be by us.
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