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UK and Ukraine forge new defense pact to counter Russian air attacks.

| Defense News Army 2024

During a surprise visit to Ukraine on January 12, 2024, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Rishi Sunak, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In this meeting, Mr. Sunak announced the ratification of a new security cooperation agreement with Ukraine, along with a significant increase in British military aid. This new agreement includes intelligence sharing, cybersecurity assistance, as well as medical and military training. Defense-industrial cooperation is also a key aspect of the agreement, aimed at countering the strengthening of the Russian military-industrial complex.
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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Rishi Sunak, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Picture source: Rishi Sunak's Twitter account )

In a major announcement dated January 12, 2024, the Prime Minister revealed that the UK will provide £2.5 billion (approximately 3.275 billion U.S. dollars) in military aid to Ukraine for the year 2024-2025. This amount, an increase of £200 million from previous years, underscores the UK's growing commitment to Ukrainian defense. The British aid will include crucial elements such as long-range missiles, robust air defense, artillery munitions, and maritime security measures. Additionally, the UK will focus on supplying military drones, investing £200 million to produce thousands of units. According to Downing Street, this initiative represents the most significant delivery of drones to Ukraine by any foreign nation, with a large part being manufactured in the UK.

Indeed, facing Russian aerial offensives, President Zelenskyy has specifically emphasized the critical need for air defense systems. This need is all the more urgent as Ukraine suffered over 500 drone and missile attacks between December 29 and January 2.

As a reminder, Russia launched a series of massive bombings at the end of December, which are among the most significant since the start of the war in February 2022. These attacks, initiated on December 29, targeted several major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv. Using nearly 300 cruise missiles and over 200 Shahed explosive drones, these bombings marked a significant shift in Russia's offensive strategy. Militarily, these attacks aimed to test the resilience of Ukrainian air defenses by saturating Ukraine's airspace. Furthermore, the increase in Russia's military budget for 2024 indicates a capacity and willingness to continue these intensive attacks. Russia also benefits from the support of Iran, which provides Shahed 136 and 238 drones, and North Korea, which has supplied KN-23 ballistic missile launch systems.

Despite economic sanctions and embargoes imposed by Western countries, Russia has demonstrated a remarkable ability to strengthen its military-industrial complex. According to information revealed by The New York Times and based on analyses from Pentagon officials and European and Ukrainian military experts, Moscow has not only overcome Western restrictions but has also significantly increased its missile production, surpassing pre-war levels. This increase in power was achieved through the use of illicit networks and circumvention strategies, notably by transiting essential components for arms production through third countries such as Armenia.

In response to this intensification of hostilities, Ukraine has strengthened its air defenses with the support of its allies. Advanced defense systems, including the American Patriot system and the Franco-Italian SAMP/T - Mamba 1 system, have been deployed to counter these aerial attacks. However, Ukraine faces a significant challenge in terms of resources and munitions to maintain an effective air defense against the ongoing Russian offensives. This critical situation has led to an international mobilization, leading to an upcoming meeting of NATO members and Ukrainian ambassadors in Brussels. The visit of the British Prime Minister is part of this effort to strengthen Ukraine's air defense capabilities. Indeed, to counter this growing threat, on December 29, 2023, the United Kingdom had already initiated the delivery of a substantial new military aid package to Ukraine. This package, significant in its scope, includes 200 ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles) air defense missiles, marking a critical enhancement of Ukraine's air defense systems.


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