Ukraine: Ben Wallace quizzed on whether UK will send fighter jets
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The British public back sending fighter jets to Ukraine in a new poll but a defence expert has warned the UK must fill gaps in its own supplies first in case tensions with Russia rapidly escalate. An exclusive survey conducted by Techne UK for the Daily Express found 50 per cent of people support supplying Kyiv with warplanes, with just 34 per cent against the move and the rest undecided. But defence industry analyst Nicholas Drummond said despite Kyiv’s pleas for aerial backing the situation is much more complicated with the UK at risk of shortages of its own.
The former Army Officer said that Ukraine requires significant amounts of ammunition in order to keep its war effort afloat, but this will be impossible to provide without Britain rapidly increasing its artillery production.
Mr Drummond said: “The issue is not only that we fail to supply Ukraine but also that we don’t have enough ourselves. The pressure to ramp up artillery production is enormous.”
He said that while Ukraine requires more tanks and combat aircraft, the UK is at risk of “leaving ourselves short” if Defence Secretary Ben Wallace attempts to meet all Kyiv’s needs at once.
The expert told the Daily Express: “Ukraine still needs more fighter jets and tanks. On tanks they’ve got 100 so far but they need 300 at least.
“But for us, it’s really about availability because we don’t want to leave ourselves short.”
There is also concern among Westminster that sending fighter jets to the warzone could escalate the conflict but Ukraine is continually pleading for air support.
Giving an address in Westminster Hall last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presented Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle with a Ukrainian fighter pilot’s helmet as a symbolic gift for what the war effort needed.
He added: “In your country, your King (Charles III) is an airforce pilot, in my country airforce pilots are kings.”
Former PM Boris Johnson quickly came out in support of the move, saying “there is no reason” that the aircraft cannot be supplied to Ukraine.
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But Mr Drummond said fear of retaliation from Putin is what “colours all of the discussion” behind closed doors.
The expert said the UK’s policy so far has been “just enough, just in time” in an attempt to avoid escalation.
He added: “We don’t want Ukraine to run out (of weapons) but at the same time, Putin could suddenly turn round and attack a NATO country.
“He could decide to attack Poland because they were directly supporting Ukraine and claim it was a justified retaliation. If something like that happens, then all bets are off.”
The UK is currently training Ukrainian pilots to fly British jets but is waiting to see what Russia does next before sending the equipment, the Daily Express understands.
The poll backing the supply of fighter jets was conducted by Techne UK on February 15 and 16. The survey spoke to 1,627 adults.
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