By Jonathan Cook
From lobbying for fighter jets to supplying depleted uranium, the UK is making sure escalation is the only way forward.
24 May 2023 – Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made an unexpected trip to Britain last week on a whistle-stop tour of European capitals, pleading for more powerful and longer-range weapons to use in his war against Russia.
What was hard to ignore once again was the extent to which the UK is playing an outsize role in Ukraine.
Last year, shortly after the start of the war, the then-prime minister, Boris Johnson, hurried to Kyiv – presumably on Washington’s instructions – apparently to warn Zelensky off fledgling peace talks with Moscow.
At around the same time, the Biden administration made clear it favoured an escalation in fighting, not an end to it, as an opportunity to “weaken” Russia, a geo-strategic rival along with China.
Since then, the UK has been at the forefront of European efforts to entrench the conflict, helping to lobby for the supply of weapons, training and military intelligence to Ukrainian forces.
British tanks and thousands of tank shells – including, controversially, some made from depleted uranium – are being shipped out. Last week, the UK added hundreds of long-range attack drones to the inventory.
And an unspecified number of £2m-a-blast Storm Shadow cruise missiles, with a range of nearly 300km, have started arriving. Last week Ben Wallace, Britain’s defence secretary, said the missiles were already in use, adding that Kyiv alone was deciding on the targets.
Storm Shadow allows the Ukrainian military to strike deep into Russian-annexed parts of Ukraine – and potentially at Russian cities too.
A recent leak revealed that the Pentagon had learnt through electronic eavesdropping of Zelensky’s eagerness for longer-range missiles so that his forces were “capable of reaching Russian troop deployments in Russia”.
Britain now pays little more than lip service to the West’s claim that its role is only to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression. The supply of increasingly offensive weapons has turned Ukraine into what amounts to a proxy battleground on which the Cold War can be revived.