Boris Johnson has attacked Rishi Sunak’s government for being ‘too slow’ in supplying weapons urgently requested by Kyiv, asking the West: “What the hell are we waiting for?”
The former prime minister, who has become a popular celebrity in Ukraine and recently received an honorary doctorate in Lviv, implored the UK to provide howitzers, Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and “as much help as we can give them with drone technology”.
Writing in the Spectator magazine, for which he was once an editor, Johnson said it could be a “relatively trivial outlay for extraordinary potential reward” if western nations were to provide more military support. He called for a “far greater sense of urgency about our programme of military assistance”.
“I have asked it before and I ask it again: what the hell are we waiting for?” he wrote, after explaining what he had seen during a visit to a centre where injured soldiers are being rehabilitated.
Boris Johnson said that Ukrainians did not want “warm words” but “weaponry to finish the job – and so I simply do not understand why we keep dragging our feet”.
“Why are we always so slow?” he asked. “How can we look these men in the eye, and explain the delay? Throughout this war we have underestimated the Ukrainians and overestimated Putin, and we are doing the same today.”
“If Putin wins – and all he has to do, to claim a victory, is hang on to at least a chunk of the territory he has taken since 24 February 2022 – the dreadful message will go round the world: that this was the moment when the democracies pledged to stand up to the autocracies, and we flunked it,” he wrote. “The story of Ukraine will be of lion-hearted Ukrainian troops finally betrayed by western loss of nerve.”
The US has provided military assistance of more than $43bn (£34bn) since the start of the Biden administration.
The UK is the second largest donor, committing over £4.6bn in military assistance to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s brutal invasion in February 2022. This includes £2.3bn in the first year and a commitment to match that funding this year. The commitment also involves a programme whereby 30,000 new and existing Ukrainian personnel will be trained by the end of the year.
Britain is also providing long-range precision strike missiles, and has pledged to train Ukrainian jet pilots, but has said that combat fighter aircraft will not be provided for the moment.
Grant Shapps, the UK’s new defence secretary, said that he was looking forward to “continuing the UK’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s barbaric invasion”.
Meanwhile, in response to Boris Johnson’s words, a government spokesman said:
“Under this prime minister’s leadership, the UK was the first to send long range air missiles to Ukraine and host an international conference which raised over $60bn towards Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. We have also surged our support by sending main battle tanks.”