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Ukraine war: Rishi Sunak shows firm determination as he vows longer-range weapons

Rishi Sunak had a hard act to follow at the Munich Security Conference.

US vice president Kamala Harris had just delivered one of the best speeches of her life.

The former American prosecutor laid out the charge sheet against Russia and vowed justice for grave crimes against humanity.

The prime minister spoke to a much emptier room. His speech was business-like, but in the Q&A session afterwards he talked with fluent passion about the task ahead.

On the plane to Munich he spoke of the need to double down on support for Ukraine but also the need to start planning for peace.

There is none of his predecessor's bombast, more an understated but firm determination.

He speaks in well-rehearsed talking points but there is a remorseless logic in what he says.

Ukraine must win as soon as possible and must be given what it needs to do so. And Britain's involvement is ratcheting up in what seems a calculated, calibrated way.

Ukraine must be given the means to defend its cities, he says, so better air defences are being promised.

Britain will be the first to give longer-range weapons.

As Russian artillery retreats further and further back, Ukraine must be given the means to continue striking it, even if it seems that means striking Russian targets in Crimea.

The prime minister's offer on warplanes is also pragmatic. He has already said it will train Ukrainian pilots to operate advanced fighter jets but warned that will take time.

In the meantime Mr Sunak told Munich the UK stands ready to help any country to provide planes that Ukraine can use today.

Planes like Soviet-era MiGs that Ukrainian pilots are familiar with and need no training to fly. Poland has already said it is prepared to send some if its air force can be backfilled by more modern planes supplied by allies.

It may be no coincidence that Sunak met with Poland's President Andrzej Duda in London earlier in the week before making this new offer. The exact kind of support being offered by Britain to such countries is not being spelled out.

The allies have accepted Ukraine must be given everything it needs to win. Sunak is one of the staunchest of advocates of that position.

The step change came with the decision to send battle tanks. But in an alliance of democracies not everyone is moving at the same speed. The priority is maintaining the sense of solidarity and unity with no one breaking ranks.

Rishi Sunak may be one of the hawks arguing for doubling down on Russia but this is being carefully choreographed with allies.

And unless Britain joins France and Germany who have now both announced significant increases in defence spending there are financial limits too holding him back.