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North West Norfolk Conservative Party member James Wild MP comments on Ukraine President Zelensky's inspirational speech

Two years ago President Zelensky was enjoying afternoon tea at the House of Commons – last week his visit was very different as he returned as a war leader.

This is not a role he sought – it was imposed on him by Russia’s appalling actions.

In an inspirational speech to MPs and peers, he spoke about the toll of Putin’s illegal invasion on the Ukrainian people and the bravery of members of its armed forces fighting for freedom.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky address to MPs in House of Commons
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky address to MPs in House of Commons

It was a privilege to listen to him speak as we approach the first anniversary of this invasion and the cross party response demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that Russia cannot win this war. In his remarks, there was genuine thanks for the leadership role the UK has played in helping Ukraine defend itself.

When war broke out, it was the UK who helped corral the international community, led on sanctions, and providing weaponry.

He also acknowledged the actions the UK has taken ahead of conflict by training Ukrainian armed forces since 2014.

James Wild MP
James Wild MP

I was in the Ministry of Defence at the time the Op Orbital training mission – and support for defence reforms – was put in place and tens of thousands of troops have received training.

At that time we were in no doubt of the threat from Russian aggression.

The 2015 Defence and Security review, for example, committed to restoring the UK’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft capability to track Russian submarine activity and those planes were ordered and are operating.

The lesson from that time for now is that those who argued the risk from Russia was overstated and argued against supporting Ukraine including with defensive weapons were wrong.

While mindful of any escalatory risk, it is our duty to stand with Ukraine and for the values of sovereignty, freedom, and democracy.

Having come so far from the initial days where the expectation was that Kyiv would fall and Russia would instal a puppet government, we need to stay the course.

That’s why it is welcome that the Prime Minister announced during President Zelensky’s visit that training will be expanded beyond existing plans including the Challenger 2 tanks the UK has committed to providing, to include ensuring pilots are able to fly NATO standard jets in the future.

In all of his speeches, President Zelensky very skilfully crafts his message to resonate with the audience, rooted in shared values.

His comment that in “Britain the King is an air force pilot. And in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is the king for us, for our families” was incredibly powerful.

All those countries who stand with Ukraine must consider seriously his ask for combat aircraft. Westminster Hall where President Zelensky spoke is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster.

It is where many historic events have occurred including speeches from Monarchs, Presidents, and Popes.

History will judge how the UK and our allies respond to this call to continuing to help defend the international order to deter future aggression and protect our security.

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