The helmet of a Ukrainian pilot was presented as a gift to Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle with the words “we have freedom, give us wings to protect it” written upon it. In response, Downing Street said it had asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to find out what planes could potentially be given, while Ukrainians are to be trained to fly modern Nato fighters.
And it was clear from the thunderous applause by MPs of all parties that support and admiration for Zelensky in parliament is near-universal.
Some might think warplanes should have been provided far more quickly, but there is a rationale behind a gradual escalation of military aid. Putin appears to have believed the West would soon succumb to ‘compassion fatigue’ and that its backing for Ukraine would falter amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Instead, the UK is signalling its intent to go the distance, both to the Kremlin and the rest of the democratic world. Following the recent announcements by the UK and several countries that advanced tanks are being sent to Ukraine, now it looks like planes will soon follow. And so they should.
Helping Zelensky and his nation defend themselves against a tyrannical aggressor is the right and moral thing for its own sake. However, it is also vitally important to demonstrate to other warmongering dictators that the free world will defend itself against attack.
As Zelensky, who emphasised his point with a Churchillian V-for-Victory sign, told parliamentarians “… victory will change the world and this will be a change that the world has long needed. The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most, I think, the most important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of the war. After we win together, any aggressor, it doesn’t matter big or small, will know what awaits him if he attacks international order. Any aggressor is going to lose.”
If freedom is to be preserved, there is no choice but to stand up to those who seek to impose their rule on others by force of arms and are prepared to slaughter thousands of innocents to do so. Slava Ukraini.