Andrew Jones writes a monthly column for the Advertiser series of newspapers. Below is the March article.
Sometimes as an MP a moment happens that you will never forget; that brings into sharp perspective the problems and difficulties we face. These moments remind you that some leaders and governments face issues on a different scale.
One such moment was the visit of President Volodymyr Zelensky last month.
Here was a man elected to lead his country in a time of peace – but not without tension – with no political background who now faces unimaginable problems. Tens of thousands killed; cities flattened; power grids repeatedly knocked out, rail and road connections destroyed. These are problems not seen in Europe for generations.
Despite facing this President Zelenskyy cuts an impressive figure. We know his visit was not just a courtesy ‘thank you’ to the United Kingdom for leading European support for Ukraine. It was for more. It was a pitch for more military support.
I want peace but land can never be traded for peace. We learnt that in the 1930s when the European powers allowed Hitler to take the Sudetenland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. We know that from 2014 when we baulked at facing down Putin as he annexed Crimea.
History shows every time territory is ceded for peace we guarantee war. It may take months or years but those who gain land through force always try to do so again.
But whether you agree with my analysis or not the sight of this naturally modest individual, dressed in khaki, speaking defiance was emotional stuff. And I saw that reflected in the faces of colleagues.
The plea for planes places NATO in a quandary. NATO members want to support Ukraine and we are doing. That support has enabled Ukrainian forces to push back and hold the vastly superior Russian forces. It appears unlikely, without a step change in the hardware being offered, that the tide can easily be reversed. This will mean a stalemate along a line running through the four areas Russia claims to have annexed.
Should we give planes? If we don’t give them now when do we? If in the end, just as with battle tanks and anti-missile batteries, we acknowledge that we will give the planes what is the point of waiting? Once we have trained Ukrainian pilots what reason is there to hold back?
I understand the misgivings that some have. I understand the fears that supplying planes may escalate the situation especially as Russia is a nuclear power. I can see though that if the tide is not turned there will be a long bloody stalemate sacrificing more young people and destroying more cities.
I am not at the stage where I am calling for planes to be sent. However, the factors I have outlined are influencing me more and more. And seeing one individual who personifies and expresses the defiance and hopes of a nation at war – a nation up against it – must surely resonate with our country, maybe more so than any other.