All signs point to escalation amid Zelensky visit

Zelensky meets Sunak
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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky‘s state visit to the UK was a story of tanks, jets, and sanctions. The former comedian, beloved by Western leaders, was greeted upon landing with a hug by UK PM Rishi Sunak. But beneath the warmth, serious business is underway – business which might take us another step closer to nuclear war.

Wings for freedom?

Fighter jets were the hottest topic. Sunak announced that the UK would train Ukrainian pilots ahead of the visit. Zelensky made a point of giving a fighter pilot’s helmet to speaker Lindsay Hoyle during his address to parliament.

Written on the helmet was a request for air power – “We have freedom, give us wings to protect it”:

Sunak and Zelensky also took the opportunity for some military cosplay. Both donned pilot’s helmets for part of Zelensky’s visit. However, the photo opportunity drew some choice remarks:

Back to reality

Questions remain about the practicalities of training and equipping Ukrainian pilots. In all likelihood, the jets Ukraine will receive are US F-16’s, which the UK does not operate. This has led to some discussion about the usefulness of training on current British fighter jets.

Also, retired senior military officers said it was unlikely British jets would simply be handed over to Ukraine. On top of this, former British army chief Richard Dannatt questioned the availability of jets:

I am interested to see what the Ministry of Defence can offer. I mean, we don’t have a huge stock of modern fast jets to spare

Tanks are also proving to be a crunch issue. Again, the same questions are being raised about UK training and operability. Zelensky and Sunak visited the training facilities together. Sunak told reporters:

We both know the people of Ukraine’s incredible strength and inspiring bravery will ultimately defeat tyranny. That is why we are training and arming them with the equipment they need to push back Russian forces

It has to be noted that Ukrainian troops are being trained on British Challenger 2’s. Potentially problematically, the most likely tank headed for Ukraine is the German Leopard 1, not the British Challenger 2. However, it is unclear whether the British training is purely tactical, rather than tied to the technical abilities of a particular tank.


Further UK sanctions on Russia were announced ahead of Zelensky’s visit. These claim to target Russian elites and military capacity. The Foreign Office said:

In total the UK’s sanction package hits 6 entities providing military equipment such as drones for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as 8 individuals and 1 entity connected to nefarious financial networks that help maintain wealth and power amongst Kremlin elites.

The firms targeted produce drones, anti-aircraft equipment, and aviation software. They also provide military logistics. Individuals named in the sanctions include senior figures in banking, the media, and oil production. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans.

UN censure

In another move which may well have been timed for Zelensky’s visit, the UK’s ambassador to the UN said Russia was entirely to blame for the war in Ukraine.

Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the Security Council:

President, colleagues. Russia is why there isn’t peace in Ukraine.

She added:

In the face of this onslaught, Ukraine has had no choice but to exercise its UN Charter right to defend itself. It has done so resolutely and successfully, but at massive cost to its people and its resources.

Woodward isn’t necessarily wrong. However, hardened rhetoric like this from all sides makes it more difficult to envision a way out of the war for all parties.

The Russian answer

Russia‘s London embassy warned that the provision of jets could have dire consequence for Europe and the world – and said that outcomes would be “on London’s hands”:

The embassy’s full statement expands on the warning, saying that if Western jets were used in territory Russia claims:

Russia will know how to respond to any unfriendly actions by the British side.

Belligerent parties

The Russian embassy is often bombastic in its commentary. And yet the spectre of nuclear war continues to loom over Ukraine. One European defence expert warned that the US did not approve of the UK’s pledges to Ukraine.

Nick Witney told The I newspaper:

The US has just said it does not want this, so Britain’s plans could be seen as a huge annoyance for Washington.

Jets in particular are likely to antagonise Russia, he said:

Jets are ultimately more escalator than ground weapons, as they can reach far further. They may get very antsy about it. But they won’t do anything more than before.

The UK ambassador wasn’t wrong in her assertion that Russia is the primary aggressor here. Yet the question for people who hold both Russian and Western expansionism in contempt is how we stop a cast of self-serving leaders tipping us all into nuclear war.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Simon Dawson, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 2.0.

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  • Show Comments
    1. “The UK ambassador wasn’t wrong in her assertion that Russia is the primary aggressor here. ”

      Depends whether you want to think back to the American-driven coup of 2014, doesn’t it ? And the civil war that started, in which far more Ukrainians were killed by the Kiev regime than have been killed by Russian action so far.

      America has been pushing for this to happen for years. They’re not even secretive about it.

      The ” primary aggressor ” is draped in the stars & stripes. Just it was in Afghanistan and Iraq, and will be in the next schedualed episodes of their Forever War : Iran and China.

      Also in todays news, with a view tothe conflict in Ukraine :

      Zelensky admits he never intended to implement Minsk agreements

      Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admits that he never thought about implementing the pivotal Minsk agreements reached with the Donbass.

    2. I completely disagree with your contention that Russia is the prime aggressor. Under the UN convention they had a duty to protect ethnic Russians. Most Ukrainians voted for Zelensky because he promised to stop the civil war, but there is footage of the leader of the Aider battalion laughing at him when he tried to enforce his will; so he quickly fell in line and neonazis were put in positions within the administration.
      I am flabbergasted at the reaction of the soft left to this war and my parents are probably spinning in their graves along with their generation at Nazi the appeasement by Europe and UK…. it’s to be expected by America.

    3. USA, UK and other NATO countries maintain that Ukraine should be able to join NATO. But if Ukraine joined NATO, Russias navy would not be able to rely on the warm and deep water port at Sevastopol for access to the worlds oceans during the winter months. Is there a country in the world which would give up such a crucial asset without a fight regardless of what international law permits? And why did an article on the escalation of military force by NATO countries make no reference to NATO?

    4. I can’t stand The Clown of Kiev. Ponsing around in military garb whilst staying hundreds of miles away from any fighting. Reportedly with a jet on standby to whisk him away to his “homeland” should Ivan get too close for comforts.
      Lauding it with foriegn warmongers and getting fattter and fatter off the blood of his own people. On both sides of the conflict.
      Begging for arms and alms like a good little “poor and persecuted” son of Isreal.
      Just another Western piss pot puppet dictator who one day they’ll fall out with and oust for another equally pathetic war mule.

    5. I am in agreement with every other poster. Yet another appalling article from the Canary. I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m fucked if I’m going to give any to read blatant lies, mistruths, and dangerous warmongering rhetoric.

      Get this straight – this war began in 2014, when the USA violently couped a neutral country and turned it into a frontline state intended to attack Russia. WHICH BIT OFTHIS CAN YOU NOT GRASP?

      Whichever of your braincells imagines the US spent $Bns to coup Ukraine to BENEFIT the Ukrainians, may I suggest surgery?

      Read this, Joe:

      And follow up by watching this:

      I understand you might not want to “offend” various vet groups. But there are also plenty of vets who have seen through the entire BS, and may I suggest you also think about THEM.

      The morons who have not can fuck off and read the Mail, or Muurdoch’s rags. They re spoiled for choice. There is more anti-war press IN the USA than the UK.

      The Canary will lose readers if it continues to promote the American Reich’s POV.

      And we do actually need you.

      Just as much as you need us.

      Quit this crap.

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