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16 March 2022updated 17 Mar 2022 7:51pm

Exclusive polling shows Britons want Nato to send fighter jets to Ukraine

Despite the preoccupation with aircraft, the air defence of the country will come down to the provision of ground-based anti-missile systems.

By Harry Lambert

The war in Ukraine has entered its 21st day, and we have some news for you: the British public wants Britain and other Nato countries to facilitate the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, according to a poll run by YouGov exclusively for Morning Call. Forty-eight per cent of voters back the idea, which is supported by many in the US Senate but opposed by the Biden administration, while 26 per cent are against it.
 
On Friday the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK suggested to me the planes would arrive in Ukraine eventually. “We will need them,” he told the New Statesman. But there are, he suggested, “technical issues, which won’t allow the immediate transfer of these planes to us”.
 
Whatever the reason for their non-delivery so far, it is possible to get too caught up in the idea of supplying fighter jets. The natural hope is that these planes will, by potentially doubling the size of Ukraine’s air force, be able to “close the skies” and stop the bombardment of Ukraine’s cities. But, in truth, the air defence of Ukraine will come down to the (possibly surreptitious) provision of ground-based anti-missile systems. I spoke with Douglas Lute, a former lieutenant general and ex US ambassador to Nato, to get a grasp on the military situation; we will have more on that later today.

As the Russian advance has stalled, debate has started to shift away from the battlefield, but it is the root from which all else follows. The quickest way to alleviate the Ukrainian refugee crisis is to win the war in Ukraine and begin the rebuilding of the country.
 
But many stories follow from the shock and scale of war. With Kyiv increasingly facing bombardment, the Mail this morning run a front-page account of the city’s “fear and defiance”. The tabloid headlines range, with the Record telling the story of one inexperienced legionnaire’s plan to fight in Ukraine, and the Express talking up hopes of a peace deal, although British officials I spoke to over the weekend were less optimistic about any imminent breakthrough. 
 
The broadsheets almost all run on Zelensky’s concession yesterday that Ukraine will not join Nato. Ukraine’s talismanic president will address a special session of Congress later today, following his video appearance before parliament last week. Look for that to spark new calls among American policymakers for the US to step up support for Ukraine, although it is hard to know how much more allies can offer the country. It has many international supporters and suppliers. But in the end it is being left to fight Russia alone.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

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