The UK is to supply Ukraine with “hundreds of new long-range attack drones” a government spokesperson told the media on Monday as the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Britain for a brief visit.
“Today the prime minister will confirm the further UK provision of hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200km. These will all be delivered over the coming months as Ukraine prepares to intensify its resistance to the ongoing Russian invasion.”
It is not at all clear what theses ‘long range attack drones’ are, although there has been some reports of the UK funding the development of a ‘suicide-drone’ to supply to Ukraine.
This latest news comes on top of the announcement in the last few weeks that the UK is supplying Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine following the export of UK Challenger 2 tanks.
Some will no doubt welcome the supply of attack drones and cruise missiles to Ukraine as a counter to Russia’s military aggression. It goes without saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continuing use of lethal force is unlawful and must be resisted. However, there are real questions to be asked now about how such a strategy of supplying evermore lethal military hardware risks expanding rather than ending this war. It is becoming increasingly easier to see the UK and other NATO countries being drawn more directly into an armed conflict with Russia. Any such escalation would be disastrous for the people of Ukraine and the wider region as well as seriously risking a catastrophic nuclear event.
Rather than escalating the conflict by supplying ever more lethal arms, the UK should be urging negotiations to end the war as it is inevitable that this will have to happen at some point. While some western military analysts urge that the war should be prolonged in order to weaken Russia in the long term, Ukraine and its people suffer.
Negotiations are of course a matter for the Ukrainian people, but it should be remembered that a settlement was seemingly very close last March with a Turkish-backed plan for Russian forces to withdraw to their pre-24 February positions without Ukraine giving up its claim to any of its territory. Unfortunately the moment passed (with suggestions that the then British PM Boris Johnson personally lobbied Zelenskiy to reject the plan (for more on this see Ukraine One Year On: Time to Negotiate Peace).
While it is easy for the current PM to grab a few headlines and play to the crowd by supplying lethal attack drones to Ukraine, the harder but more rewarding long-term work of diplomacy in order to end this awful war is being neglected.