Andrew Marr: Britain's answer to Zelenskyy's warplane plea now sounds much nearer to a 'no', what's going on?

9 February 2023, 18:12 | Updated: 9 February 2023, 18:15

The answer from Britain to Zelenskyy&squot;s urgent request for fighter jets to support the war effort is "much nearer no than yes", Andrew Marr says.
The answer from Britain to Zelenskyy's urgent request for fighter jets to support the war effort is "much nearer no than yes", Andrew Marr says. Picture: LBC

By Chris Samuel

Andrew Marr has said that despite all the ceremony and emotion of Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise visit to Parliament on Wednesday, the answer from Britain to his urgent request for fighter jets to support the war effort seems to be "much nearer no than yes".

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Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter asked whether Britain's failure to back up the rousing rhetoric with the kit Ukraine desperately needs may have more to do with the weakness of our own armed forces, which have been underfunded for years.

He said: "And what a difference a day makes. After all the high emotion, and the standing in front of tanks, and the frank appeal for fighter aircraft, and the brandishing of helmets during President Zelenskyy’s historic visit to London only yesterday, it turns out today that, after all, our answer is much nearer no than yes.

"The defence secretary Ben Wallace, speaking in Rome, said “Britain hasn’t said it is necessarily going to send fighter jets to Ukraine… We are going to start training to improve the resilience of Ukraine, probably post-conflict, which is no different to what we were doing in 2015…”"

"Oh. Well that's a rather different tone from yesterday when Zelenskyy was here in his battle fatigues and nothing was off the table.

Andrew Marr: Britain's answer to Zelenskyy's warplane plea now sounds nearer to a 'no'

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"It has the same cautious note as Lord George Robertson, the former Secretary General of NATO, expressed on this show yesterday when he said it was unlikely that we would see British jets over Ukraine.

"What's going on? Well Downing Street confirmed today that Britain was well aware of the danger of escalatory risks and Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said, and I quote, "of course we would never do anything that would put UK safety at risk." That's a long way short of the support Mr Zelenskyy was asking for.

"Today he’s been in Brussels, again asking European allies for fighter aircraft; and he may have more luck. But here it looks as if somebody somewhere has quietly drawn a line in the sand and said this much help - but not that.

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"For Ukraine, this is an urgent question. They expect a major new Russian attack at any time, as President Putin pours freshly recruited troops into the so-called meat grinder struggle on the border.

The Ukrainian President renewed his plea to Britain to provide fighter jets to help his country defend itself against invading Russian forces.
The Ukrainian President renewed his plea to Britain to provide fighter jets to help his country defend itself against invading Russian forces. Picture: Getty

"You will remember we are sending Challenger tanks, and the Americans are sending Abrams and the Germans and others, Leopards.

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"But the powerful new Western tanks aren't anywhere near the battlefield yet and won't be for quite some time. They may arrive too late.

Following Mr Zelenskyy's visit, the Defense Secretary Ben Wallace played down the prospect of Britain supplying warplanes to Ukraine.
Following Mr Zelenskyy's visit, the Defense Secretary Ben Wallace played down the prospect of Britain supplying warplanes to Ukraine. Picture: Getty

"In the case of Britain, is our failure to match the heroic rhetoric with the kit at the speeds Zelensky wants, anything to do, I wonder, with the weakness of our own armed services, which even Mr Wallace said had been hollowed out and underfunded for years?

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