Fighter jets for Ukraine: which of the allies will help “close the sky”?

January 31,2023 438
Fighter jets for Ukraine: which of the allies will help “close the sky”?

Ukraine is in “fast-track” negotiations with its Western allies on the possibility of providing it with military aircraft and long-range missiles, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on TV Saturday, according to media reports.

He said Ukraine’s supporters in the West “understand how the war is developing” and the need to supply planes capable of providing cover for the armored fighting vehicles that the United States and Germany pledged at the beginning of the month, according to AP.

However, Podolyak said that some of Ukraine’s Western partners maintain a “conservative” attitude to arms deliveries “due to fear of changes in the international architecture.”

“We need to work with this. We must show [our partners] the real picture of this war,” Podolyak said, without naming specific countries. “We must speak reasonably and tell them, for example, ‘This and this will reduce fatalities, this will reduce the burden on infrastructure. This will reduce security threats to the European continent, this will keep the war localized.’ And we are doing it.”

“In my opinion, there are two very important positions on the negotiating table for this stage of the war right now: long-range missiles — key missiles that will allow the destruction of the Russian rear infrastructure, primarily the artillery depots, a large number of which are located, for example, on the territory of Crimea — and also aviation,” CNN quoted Podolyak as saying.

To protect its sky, Ukraine needs up to 200 multipurpose fighter jets, such as F-16, to replace its obsolete Soviet-era aircraft, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told the French La Chaîne Info channel and Ukrainska Pravda.

He said the aggressor’s aviation group, concentrated on four dozen airfields in Russia, Belarus and the occupied territories, five to six times outnumbers the Ukrainian aviation.

“In addition, we are inferior technologically. Therefore, the need is serious. We have to form up to five brigades of tactical aviation with one type of multipurpose aircraft of Western design,” Ihnat said, noting that the most likely candidate for replacing the old Soviet aircraft is F-16.

“It is clear that we will not be able to get everything at once,” he added.

Politico reports that there is a contingent of U.S. military officials quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile and drone attacks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

“I don’t think we are opposed,” said a senior Department of Defense official about the F-16s, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive debate. The person stressed that there has been no final decision.

French President Emmanuel Macron, at a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, the Netherlands, said about possible deliveries of fighter planes to Ukraine that “in principle, nothing is forbidden,” according to Ukrainska Pravda. He said, however, that it must not be “escalatory” and “weaken the French army.”

Rutte said the Netherlands is ready to consider Ukraine’s request for the supply of F-16 fighter jets, but so far, no such request has been received.

He also emphasized that there are no taboos on helping Ukraine win the war with Russia. “But it would really be a very big next step if it came to that,” Rutte pointed out.

In contrast, both Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden say “no” to giving Ukraine their fighter jets.

Scholz on Monday criticized the debate over the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine, according to Spiegel. He called the fact of holding such discussions “idiosyncratic” and “an outbidding competition (…), in which perhaps domestic political motives are in the foreground instead of supporting Ukraine.”

The next day, Biden ruled out sending F-16s to Ukraine, despite renewed calls from Ukrainian officials for urgent air support, BBC reports.

Asked by a reporter if the United States would be providing the planes, Biden simply replied, “no.”

Photo: Ukraine has kept American-made F-16s on its weapons wish list since the Russian invasion last year. (Master Sgt. Caycee Watson/U.S. Air National Guard via Politico)