Ukraine’s air defence must be bolstered now

Richard Branson and the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Richard Branson and the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 24 April 2024

A sense of relief and renewed hope was felt around the world last weekend when the US House of Representatives, with a rare bipartisan majority, passed the long-awaited Ukraine aid bill. This vote, cleared by House Speaker Mike Johnson against much resistance in his own party, didn’t come a minute too soon. It will go a long way in ensuring that Ukraine’s brave fight (on behalf of us all) against Russian aggression can endure – and eventually succeed.

America’s allies have been doing their part, too, and their support must not let up now. Russia has been exploiting Ukraine’s diminished air defences to rain missiles, drones, and bombs on civilian infrastructure and on civilians alike, showing their total disregard for human life. Just a few days ago, a missile attack reportedly killed 18 people in a densely populated area in the city of Chernihiv. What we are witnessing is a calculated and brutal war of attrition, intended to make day-to-day life unbearable and break Ukraine’s spirit. Of course, Ukrainians are much more resilient than that, but occasional signs of Western fatigue have been worrisome.

While US aid and weapons will take some time to arrive, Ukraine now most urgently needs advanced air defence systems to stem the tide of Russia’s attacks. These systems have been effective in the past, and they exist in sufficient numbers in many countries around the world, often collecting dust in the absence of any real threat.

Germany’s Immediate Action on Air Defense (IAAD) initiative, asking a large number of countries to contribute financially or in kind, is to be welcomed. Governments should heed the call, especially those whose air defences are neither needed nor used, like Spain and Greece, who have been asked to share their US-made Patriot systems. And there are various ways of easing the burden. In 2021, for instance, Greece loaned a Patriot battery to Saudi Arabia. Could a similar scenario work now, with the operating costs covered by IAAD or some other collective fund?

Richard Branson meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukraine government

Whatever the solution, there is ample hope that the free world will remain united and steadfast in the face of Putin’s aggression. As I’ve said many times before, Ukraine’s struggle is our struggle, too. Ukrainians are fighting for more than their own survival. They are fighting for a world where freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law prevail over oppression, violence, and darkness.