Ukraine backers blast ‘double standard’ after allies rush to Israel’s defense

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If the United States and its allies can rush to Israel’s defense in the skies, shooting down dozens of drones and missiles fired by Iran, why can’t they do the same for Ukraine — which has suffered under Russia’s missile attacks for more than two years?

That’s the question Ukrainians and their staunchest backers in the West were asking on Monday, hours after the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and Jordan helped Israel shoot down some 300 drones and missiles fired by Iran in retaliation after Israel killed its senior military commanders in Syria.

“During Iran’s attack against Israel, some Western countries contributed to protecting Israeli skies as an important act of solidarity,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told POLITICO. “Kyiv keeps requesting the same type of protection from the same group of countries for more than two years now.

“I am sure that Ukraine will raise an argument that if one non-NATO country has been provided with air defense when attacked by a hostile adversary, why should Ukraine be treated differently? Given the dire and urgent situation that Ukraine now faces, that argument is rather convincing,” he added.

The show of airborne prowess by Western allies and their partners in the Middle East — which included rushing fighter jets to knock down cruise missiles and Shahed drones headed for Israel — proved the effectiveness of Israel’s missile defense system when combined with some of the world’s most advanced aircraft.

But it also pointed to a yawning difference in the way Western powers treat Israel compared to Ukraine.

More than two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine continues to be targeted by missile and drone attacks that frequently overwhelm the country’s diminishing air defense capacities, leading to the battering of Kharkiv, a city near the Ukraine-Russia border, the loss of frontline towns held by Ukraine until recently, as well the destruction of a key power plant last week.

While Germany has committed to sending one additional Patriot missile defense system to shore up Ukraine’s aerial defense capacity, and four European countries have pledged to send some 45 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Western powers have never offered to activate their own missile defense systems or send their own aircraft into Ukrainian skies to fend off the threat.

Asked why Britain couldn’t offer the same type of support it gave Israel to Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told LBC radio on Thursday that doing so would represent a “dangerous escalation.” 

But some Ukraine supporters brushed off that argument.

Answering a tweet asking why the West did not shoot down Russian drones and missiles, former French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, wrote: “Good question indeed….”

As Kyiv’s ministers plead with Western allies for more help, especially with air defenses, pro-Kyiv allies said the Iran attack episode proved the problem was a lack of will, not one of capabilities. “The common resolute allied response shows how effective our joint efforts can be when there is enough will,” Tomáš Kopečný, the Czech envoy for Ukraine’s reconstruction told POLITICO. 

In Ukraine, where senior commanders now warn of deteriorating conditions on the front, the coordinated Western response to Iran’s attack prompted disbelief, rage and bitter mockery. 

“So it was possible to hit the aggressor in the teeth together and at once, and prevent the bloodiest war in the center of Europe after the Second World War from the very beginning?” Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Viktoria Siumar wrote in a Facebook post.