Boris Johnson and Liz Truss heap pressure on Rishi Sunak to send fighter jets to Ukraine

Former prime ministers unite in call for lethal weapons to be sent to Kyiv sooner


Rishi Sunak’s two predecessors have united to pile pressure on the Prime Minister to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

In her first Commons intervention since her resignation in October, Liz Truss said she “could not wait to see fighter jets over Ukraine”.

Speaking in the same debate, Boris Johnson said it was time to “cut to the chase” and give Kyiv the planes it needs to defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces.

The pair’s interventions came after Joe Biden, the US president, made a surprise visit to Ukraine as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion approaches.

However, Mr Biden was accused by Ron DeSantis, the Republican Florida governor and a leading 2024 presidential candidate, of a “blank cheque policy” on the conflict

Mr DeSantis said there is “no clear, strategic objective identified, and these things can escalate”, adding that the president was “very concerned about those borders halfway around the world” but has “not done anything to secure our own border here at home”.

The US has been the largest financial backer of the Ukrainian war effort, and has committed about $30 billion (£24.9 billion) in security assistance since Russia’s invasion began on Feb 24 last year. Polls show that the American public is growing weary of the huge spending to aid Ukraine amid persistently high inflation at home.

Earlier this month, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, made an impassioned plea for fighter jets during a surprise visit to the UK.

Mr Sunak has ordered the Ministry of Defence to look into how planes could be provided and has pledged to train Ukrainian fighter jet pilots.

But military figures have warned that sending the UK’s Typhoon jets would be complicated because training an existing pilot to use one of the jets would normally take three years.

On Monday, Mr Sunak’s two predecessors in Downing Street spoke minutes apart in the Commons and suggested such problems could be overcome.

Mr Johnson said tanks must be sent to Ukraine “in the next few weeks” and not next year, adding: “Let’s cut to the chase and give them the planes too. And if the House was in any doubt about the urgency of supplying our equipment to the Ukrainians, it is becoming ever clearer that China is preparing to arm the Russians.”

On tanks, he said: “The story of the last 12 months is that sooner or later, having exhausted all the other options, we give them what they need – from anti-tank missiles, to Himars, to tanks. And if that is the choice, sooner or later, then for heaven’s sake let’s give these weapons sooner.”

He said it was “absurd” for Western supporters to keep asking the Ukrainians how long the conflict is going to take, adding: “The answer to that question is to a large extent determined by us. It is a fine thing that we’ve finally promised tanks but there is no conceivable ground for delay in getting them to Ukraine.”

Mr Johnson has spearheaded calls to send fighter jets to Ukraine. When Mr Zelensky visited the UK, he urged the Government to send Typhoon jets straight away.

He concluded his speech on Monday by calling on the Government to “designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, placing that country where it now rightly belongs, on the list that includes Cuba, North Korea and Syria”.

He added: “The Ukrainians are not just fighting for their freedom, but for the cause of freedom around the world. We should give them what they need not next month, not next year, but now.”

Ms Truss, sitting near her predecessor, spoke shortly after him and said: “We supplied weapons to Ukraine and … have built up now an alliance of countries supplying those weapons. And I can’t wait to see the tanks and I can’t wait to see the fighter jets in Ukraine to help those brave Ukrainians.

“Let’s all be honest, we should have done more earlier. The reason that Putin took the action he took is because he didn’t believe we would follow through. And we didn’t take him at his word … We didn’t do enough, we collectively turned far too much of a blind eye.

“We need to do all we can to make sure Ukraine wins this war as soon as possible. Every extra day are lives lost, women violated, towns destroyed. We need to do all we can as fast as we can. My view is that does include fighter jets.”

It is Ms Truss’s third intervention on policy since leaving Downing Street, as she has appeared to put pressure on her successor on a range of issues. 

Earlier this month, she insisted that tax cuts are still the best way to stimulate growth, and last week she used a speech in Japan to call for ties with Taiwan to be boosted to combat the threat from China.

On Monday, she also warned that the West must learn the lessons of Ukraine with regard to the Chinese threat to Taiwan, saying: “Prevention is far better than cure.

Let’s be clear with China exactly what would happen if there was an escalation with respect to Taiwan,” she said. “Let’s be clear about that now, and let’s also make sure that Taiwan is able to defend itself. Let’s not leave another free democracy undefended for an authoritarian regime to invade.”

Mr Biden diverted from a scheduled trip to Poland to visit the Ukrainian capital.

In an address, he said: “For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine.”

However, the White House has privately warned Kyiv that its financial and military support could soon be curtailed by Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives.


  1. A couple of readers comments :

    Finian Manson:
    “Let’s all be honest, we should have done more earlier.”
    Indeed, and it is not just the unacceptable delays in supplying Ukraine with weapons and ammunition it needs to defeat Russia and restore its territorial integrity to the pre-2014 borders that were guaranteed by the USA, the UK and ironically Russia; it is the delays in replenishing our stocks of ammunition, equipment and other matériel as well as the failure to announce we are doubling the sizes of our Armed Forces and equipping them properly.
    Instead, we have the Treasury and Chancellor and indeed Prime Minister dragging their heels over even placing orders to replace anything we have donated to Ukraine.
    Worse still, once again it has been shown that the consumption rate of ammunition far exceeds Treasury expectations and yet the Treasury refuses to allow the Armed Forces to hold adequate stocks let alone War Reserve as well.
    We are sleepwalking into disaster with the same sort of arrogance and indolence that wasted six months last year on the leadership campaign, that was an ignored by the parliamentary
    party, whilst an energy crisis was looming and inflationary showing signs of going out of control.”

    A Troll writes :
    Terence ELTEL
    “This is the proof, if proof were needed, that they are absolutely mad.
    It is a tradition in British politics that a defeated P.M. retires to the Lords or backbenches it and zips it !
    Ukraine is not in the west. Russia has never threatened the west. Johnson dragged us into this conflict and the people of Britain are paying a heavy price. The U.S. had their war in Korea, then it was Vietnam, then Iraq, then Afghanistan and now Ukraine. When will they ever stop ? The UK must not fight their war!”

    REPLY from Finian Manson:
Reply to Terence ELTEL 
“Russia has never threatened the West! 
What world you live in! 
As for Ukraine, a sovereign nation that was conquered by an expansionist Russia a few hundred years ago, Russia along with UK and USA guaranteed its sovereignty in return for giving up its nuclear arsenal. 
If Russia can tear up treaties why cannot we tear up treaties with the EU?
    You do recall, I hope, your stance on that issue?”

  2. Should have happened 6 months ago already. However, noctambulation is the definition of Western politics, and not only concerning sending appropriate war materials to Ukraine, but just about in every other aspect.

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