‘Nothing Is Off the Table’ — Sunak Considering Sending Fighter Jets to Ukraine amid Pressure from Boris and Zelenksy

LULWORTH, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 8: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “nothing is off the table” in terms of sending fighter jets to Ukraine after demands from both President Volodymyr Zelenksy and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

Following a speech delivered in the historic Westminster Hall by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy in which he cheekily thanked the United Kingdom “in advance” for shipments of “powerful English planes” to fight the Russians, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman attempted to play down the prospect of sending fighter jets to the country for now, noting that Ukrainian soldiers are not currently trained in how to fly British war planes — a process that typically takes years.

However, Downing Street said that the measure, which would represent a dramatic escalation in the conflict, is under active consideration.

“I think you can see from the steps that we are taking that we are willing to put Ukraine in the position where, once we have reached the goals of training pilots, they are able to fly these type of jets,” the prime minster’s spokesman said according to The Times.

“What we have not made a decision on is whether we send UK fighter jets. Obviously there is an ongoing discussion among other countries about their own fighter jets, some of which are more akin to what Ukrainian pilots are used to.”

When personally pressed on whether the British government would send jets to Ukraine, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Nothing is off the table.”

The pressure on the government to send jets into Ukraine was ramped up further on Wednesday following Zelensky’s speech by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been one of the chief advocates in the Western world for pouring more military equipment into the conflict zone since the invasion last February.

Demanding that the Ukrainian president’s call for arms be headed, Mr Johnson said: “There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by sending planes now.”

The former prime minister went on to note that the UK has over 100 Typhoon jets at its disposal, adding: “The best single use for any of these items is to deploy them now for the protection of the Ukrainians.”

In addition to sending billions in weaponry to the frontline in Ukraine, Britain has also been at the forefront in training Ukrainian  soldiers on how to use advanced Western arms, including the use of anti-tank missiles and main battle tanks. The UK is set to send a provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems, with the country already spending nearly £4 billion in military aid to the former Soviet nation.

After addressing the Parliament on Wednesday, Zelensky joined Prime Minster Sunak on a trip to Dorset in the south west of England, where the British military is actively training Ukrainian soldiers.

Appearing in front of British tanks and soldiers, Zelensky told reporters that Ukraine will be “intensifying our diplomacy” on the issue of receiving Typhoon fighter jets from the West.

“When it comes to Typhoons, not everything depends just on the decision of Great Britain. I will be working in that direction because this is how we have been able to change many things,” the Ukrainian leader said.

“We are intensifying our diplomacy and I do believe within a day we will be able to meet with a dozen EU leaders and then we will go back home. All of these conversations, they have to take place quickly.”

At the conclusion of the visit, Zelensky and Sunak signed the “London Declaration” in which the United Kingdom reaffirmed its “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its recognised borders, as well as Ukraine’s right to pursue its own security arrangements, including future membership of NATO.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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