In Britain, the papers are split across multiple stories today. The most notable are in the Guardian, which has an exclusive investigation into sexual misconduct claims against the DJ Tim Westwood, and the Mail, which has doubled down on its widely criticised reporting on Angela Rayner from this weekend. The Mail claims that Rayner herself was, inadvertently, the source of the story that she “distracted” Johnson at the despatch box in recent parliamentary debates.
But sometimes the bigger story of the day is the one rumbling away in the background, and I think that is true today. The pivotal development this week is the newfound strength of Western support for Ukraine, and the increasingly instantaneous supply of weapons from the West to the Ukrainian front.
Yesterday, more than 40 countries met at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany to discuss Ukraine’s military needs. Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, concluded the conference by announcing the creation of the Ukraine Contact Group, an ongoing grouping of allies which will meet regularly to organise the supply of weapons to the Ukrainians, in an explicit effort to weaken the military capacity of Russia.
We have come a long way from the world of two months ago, when the Pentagon quickly distanced itself from a Polish plan to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via Ramstein. I suggested at the time that the Western alliance would regret letting Kyiv fall and that history would be amazed that the West allowed a country as big, well led and potentially powerful as Ukraine to fight alone. The West seemed to be underestimating how much hinged on helping Ukraine immediately: if Putin failed, he could fall. If he succeeded, he would control the second-biggest country in Europe. It seemed that we should send every weapon we had, and that we should have sent it long ago.
Many of you likely agreed with that view at the time: the British public was always far more hawkish than the West’s politicians on moving to weaken Russia after Putin invaded. By three to one, Brits wanted us to send additional weaponry to Ukraine in February. Boris Johnson has since benefitted – or perhaps only won a temporary stay of execution – by riding that wave of public feeling.
Few politicians still air concerns about the West escalating the conflict by aiding Ukraine. Such talk died in the aftermath of Bucha. The Ukrainians have paid an unthinkable price while the West woke up to the Russian threat. But Western nations do, at last, appear to be fully alive to the world Putin has created, and ready to supply Ukraine with all it needs to survive.
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