December 1, 2023


Satisfying Ukraine’s request for tanks and jets “looks very difficult,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday, responding to a direct plea hours earlier from Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Ukrainian president addressed NATO leaders, including Johnson, during an emergency meeting in Brussels Thursday. While Zelenskyy thanked NATO countries for the military and humanitarian aid they have provided, he made an appeal for tanks and fighter jets, which have thus far not been offered.

Johnson told reporters following the meeting that Western allies were working to “ramp up lethal aid” to Ukraine “in the quantity and with the quality” needed for defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion.

But he said the help will likely not extend to tanks and jets.

“Logistically it looks very difficult, both with armor and with jets,” he said. “We are very conscious of what he is asking for. The equipment we think is most valuable at the moment are missiles, which they can use to defend themselves.”

Still, Johnson admitted NATO and G7 members felt “agony” about their “inability to do more to help” Ukraine, “given the constraints.”

Britain has announced it will send an additional 6,000 missiles, provide £25 million for Ukraine’s armed forces and increase British troop presence in Bulgaria.

No Western democracy is currently contemplating putting boots on the ground in Ukraine, Johnson added, nor is any willing to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, as Ukraine has requested.

The prime minister also refused to be drawn into whether NATO would intervene militarily in Ukraine if Russia used chemical weapons, only saying that there would be “severe consequences.” A Western official had earlier Thursday described a NATO military intervention in that scenario as “highly unlikely.”

Asked why the Kremlin spokesman had recently labeled him “the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian,” Johnson responded: “There isn’t a single person round the G7 table who is against the Russian people.”

“I am the only prime minister in U.K. history to be called Boris. I am not remotely anti-Russian,” he said. “What we can all agree [is] that the way Vladimir Putin is leading Russia at the moment is absolutely catastrophic.”


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