Will The UK Go To War With Russia Over Ukraine?

It's starting to look like Ukraine might not be able to win on its own – and Russia certainly isn't going to give up.
Will the UK go to war with Russia over Ukraine?
Will the UK go to war with Russia over Ukraine?

As Russia’s bloody war against Ukraine continues, there is a growing tension over whether the West will actually get involved.

While some Ukrainian cities have been brutally destroyed, the resistance has managed to prevent Russian forces from seizing control in most places.

But at significant cost. Ukrainian’s fighting force is severally diminished after four months of fighting and it doesn’t look like Vladimir Putin is going to walk away of his own accord any time soon.

So is direct Western involvement, particularly the UK’s, the only way to turn the tide?

Why now?

Ukraine has been calling for more assistance from the West from the very start of the invasion, but Europe and the US have been resisting over fears of stoking World War III, or nuclear conflict.

Instead, the West have been supplying Ukraine with arms to help fight Russia.

But then, Russia’s Armed Forces seemed to sink to a new low on Monday when a shopping centre – reportedly not close to any military targets – was attacked by a missile.

It was part of an “unusually intense wave of strikes” from Russian forces in recent days which have affected citizens all around Ukraine.

At least 18 people have been killed, and a further 59 injured in Kremenchuk, which is near the capital Kyiv. Around 1,000 people had been inside shortly before the attack but many luckily managed to evacuate due to air sirens.

The leaders of the G7 dubbed the attack as a war crime, while Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy described it as “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history”.

The brutality of the attack shows that, despite not securing any significant victories and acquiring a high casualty rate, Russia is far from giving up.

What does Downing Street say?

The government has been very clear on its alliance with Ukraine from the very start of the Russian invasion.

Boris Johnson has made two surprise trips to visit Kyiv since the war began, and has been publicly praised by Zelenskyy for proving the UK’s “support for Ukraine is firm and resolute”.

The prime minister has strengthened his hopes for Ukraine to win the war completely in recent weeks, making it clear to allies that he does not want to push Ukraine into settling the conflict.

Johnson reportedly fears this could encourage Putin to take more drastic action to intimidate his other neighbouring nations in the future, and that other authoritarian regimes (including China) would be emboldened if Russia got away with its invasion.

He has also expressed concerns over the food and energy crisis that the war in Ukraine has created all over the world, by driving up the price for grains and fuel.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss also indicated that Britain was looking for a concrete resolution. She said this week there cannot be “some uneasy peace where Russia is still present in Ukraine” meaning the country should get all the land it has lost since 2014 back – including the peninsula of Crimea.

Zelenskyy has also asked for the West to help Ukraine resolve the war by the end of 2022.

However, western leaders, including Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the war could be drawn out for “years”.

Johnson also said earlier this month: “I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war.”

Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 09, 2022.
Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 09, 2022.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What does Russia say?

Putin has already issued several damning threats against the West if it intervenes to help the Ukrainian war effort.

Not only has the West repeatedly sanctioned Russian oligarchs linked to Putin’s regime, it has already taken steps to cut off access to Russia’s main exports – oil and natural gas.

Russia has since sanctioned senior officials across the West, although it is the Kremlin’s warnings about what would happen if there was any direct intervention which is more shocking.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned in April that Nato was “in essence” in a proxy conflict with Moscow by supplying Kyiv with weapons, adding: “War means war.”

He said Russia was trying to avoid a nuclear war, but “the risks are now considerable”.

“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real, and we must not underestimate it.”

Caught at a critical moment

It doesn’t look like the UK is about to step into the war imminently, but we are at a crucial crossroads, according to the new Army boss.

The chief of the general staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders, said on Tuesday that the UK is facing a “1937 moment” right now, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He is expected to say he has never seen such a clear threat to peace and democracy as the “brutal aggression” from Russia – and so the UK must be ready to “fight and win alongside our Nato allies and partners” to stop the war spreading further into Europe.

Referencing the year before World War II kicked off, Sanders said: “This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war – but must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war.”

So is the UK preparing?

Well, it might be.

According to reports, the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, is preparing to call for an increase in ministry of defence spending.

He has asked for a 20% rise in spending over the next five years, and increase the budget from 2% of GDP to 2.5% by 2028.

He has called for other Nato members to follow suit.

What about the rest of the West?

While the UK has been keen to present itself as one of Ukraine’s most supportive allies, other European nations are stepping in as well.

The UK and France had a meeting on Monday which went better than expected. Both Johnson and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed that the outright defeat of Russia was the best outcome, and they vowed to send a “surge” of military support to Ukraine.

Nato is also already on high alert.

More than 300,000 Nato troops are to be put on “high alert” in the “biggest overhaul” of the alliance since the cold war, according to the Nato chief.

With a Nato summit going ahead this week, more measures could be on the horizon.


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