Rishi Sunak urges crackdown on ‘Russia’s capability to regroup and to resupply’

Latvia Joint Expeditionary Force
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks, during the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) meeting in Riga, Latvia, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (Henry Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP) Henry Nicholls/AP

Rishi Sunak urges crackdown on ‘Russia’s capability to regroup and to resupply’

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Ukraine should receive more and greater varieties of Western military aid, according to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who called for a parallel crackdown on Russia’s military capacity in anticipation of a protracted conflict over the next year.

“We must continue to focus on degrading Russia’s capability to regroup and to resupply,” Sunak told a U.K.-led summit of Northern European leaders. “And that means going after its supply chains and removing the international support — particularly, I’m thinking of Iran and the weapons that it’s currently providing to Russia, which we should be very strong about calling out.

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That exhortation is the latest indication that leading Western powers see a need to prepare for larger and more extended commitments of military equipment to Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin likewise is drawing on his remaining international relationships, especially with Iran, which provided a “new batch” of military drones to Russian forces, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“It’s important that we continue this and to stand up to any Russian blackmail,” said Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, who hosted the Joint Expeditionary Force in Riga alongside Sunak. “I think it’s up to Ukraine to tell us what they need and when they need it, not the other way around. And I’m convinced that we have to continue that effort for as long as necessary until Ukraine wins and Russia loses. It’s in all of our direct interests, as the region, that this is indeed what happens.”

Sunak pledged that the United Kingdom next year would “match or exceed the 2.3 billion pounds in aid that we provided this year,” beginning with a major artillery package.

“We must be clear that any unilateral call for a ceasefire by Russia is completely meaningless in the current context,” he said. ”I think it would be a false call, it would be used by Russia to regroup, to reinforce their troops, and until they have withdrawn from conquered territory, there can and should be no real negotiation.”

Ukrainian officials have forecast a need for artillery shells in quantities on the scale of World War I, but they have been stymied in part by a lack of adequate Western stockpiles. Sunak’s proposal came on the heels of yet another Russian bombardment of Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Zelensky buttressed the British leader’s proposal by enumerating the Iranian-made drones that Russian forces employed overnight.

“Ukraine was again attacked by Iranian drones this night — 34 Shaheds,” said Zelensky, who joined the summit over video. “I say both the number and the name, and quite specifically, these are Shaheds from the new batch that Russia received from Iran — 250 items. That’s how many Shaheds have now been received by the terrorist state.”

That report set the predicate for personal and specific appeals to the assembled officials of Norway, the Netherlands, the Baltic States, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and the U.K. It was a friendly gathering, by and large, because these countries form a bloc that has “taken the lead in supporting,” in Sunak’s terms.

“Right now, to a large extent, it depends on you when and how this war will end,” Zelensky said. “Winter is now a really crucial time. It is a time when decisions can be made, the results of which in the spring will allow us to outline the restoration of our territorial integrity and guarantee that Russian revanchism will never again cross the border of Ukraine and, therefore, the border of Europe.”

A note of frustration surfaced at one point as Zelensky reiterated his requests for weaponry that originated in Germany and France — the Western European heavyweights that have proven more hesitant than the U.K. to provide heavy weapons systems.

“There is no explanation why Ukraine has not yet obtained a decision on the provision of modern and effective tanks, in particular ‘Leopards,’” Zelensky said, referring to German-made tanks in an appeal to Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren. “This is vital. I am asking you and your partners to reach this decision, to help us.”

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Sunak assured him of “total solidarity” in Ukraine’s effort to “continue to fight and reclaim the territory” that Russia has seized.

“You have our total support, and we will spend the rest of our time today talking about how best we can continue to support you and get you everything that you need,” he said. “Thank you for talking so eloquently and powerfully, and leave it to us to then take that all forward and come back to you with the extra help that you need.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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