Ukraine pushes Western fighter jets after tank deal

KIEV, UKRAINE—Ukraine gained support from the Baltics and Poland on Tuesday in its bid to acquire Western fighter jets. Years fought against the Russian invaders.

“Ukraine needs fighters … missiles, tanks. was particularly threatened by Russia and was a major supporter of military aid.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said he had met with the French Defense Minister and did not discuss specific fighter jets, but air “platforms” to support Ukraine’s surface-to-air defense.

“I don’t know how quick this reaction from the Western allies will be,” Reznikov said to Kyiv’s demands for fighters.

He also listed the weapons Ukraine had sought over the past year, starting with the Stinger and saying the first reaction was always “impossible.”

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecorne said during a meeting with Reznikov that there was “no taboo” in sending fighters. He also confirmed that France will send 12 more Caesar cannons in the coming weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France has not ruled out sending fighter jets, but that it would not lead to an escalation of tensions or that the aircraft would be used to “touch Russian soil” before taking such a step. He said that he would set conditions such as not to weaken and not to weaken. “French Capabilities”

Reznikov’s visit came a week after Western powers promised to send sophisticated and modern tanks to Kyiv.

Some Western leaders have expressed concern that providing military aircraft could escalate and deepen the conflict.

The UK government, Kyiv’s strongest supporter and military supplier, said it was “not realistic” to send fighter jets. “Britain’s Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets are very sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly,” Max Blaine, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said on Tuesday.

Asked on Monday whether his administration was considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, President Joe Biden replied, “No.”

On Tuesday, Reznikov was asked if Biden’s “no” to F-16s was the final word.

“Aid of all kinds goes through the ‘no’ stage first,” he said. “This just means ‘no’ at a particular moment today. The second step is “Let’s discuss and research technical possibilities”. The third step is to “develop human resources”. And the fourth step is (equipment) transfer. “

Reznikov said Ukraine went through these stages before acquiring the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Bradley armored vehicles and 155 mm guns.

“Remember the story of the German leopard. The answer was also ‘no,'” he added. “And now we have the Tank Coalition. So I believe the Air Coalition is within reach. But first we always need a leader. It’s the reason I’m here.”

Kyiv has repeatedly urged allies to send jets to challenge Russia’s air superiority, calling it essential to ensuring the success of future counterattacks spearheaded by Western tanks.

The West also denies providing Kyiv with long-range missiles capable of hitting Russian territory, citing potential escalation.

After months of negotiations, Western allies agreed to send tanks last week, despite the hesitation and caution of some NATO members.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared hesitant about providing fighter jets, suggesting on Sunday that the reason for the debate could be “domestic political motives” in some countries.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday that there were “no taboos” in efforts to help Ukraine, but added that jets “would be a very big next step”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, when asked Tuesday about Western arms supplies to Ukraine, reiterated the Kremlin’s view that “NATO has long been directly involved in mixed warfare against Russia.”

After a meeting in Moscow with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, he said the Russian military would “take all necessary measures to hinder the implementation of Western plans.”

He said Shukry delivered a message about Ukraine from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Russia is ready to hear serious proposals aimed at a comprehensive solution to the current situation,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine and Russia are believed to be bolstering their arsenals for the offensive expected in the coming months after the war stalemate on the battlefield over the winter.

A Russian self-propelled artillery gun fires at Ukrainian forces at an undisclosed location in a handout photo released on January 31, 2023. (Russian Ministry of Defense press service via AP)

Asked about Lithuania’s demands for fighter jets and long-range missiles from Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the comments “reflected the aggressive approach taken by the Baltics and Poland. ”

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic meanwhile criticized Western supplies of tanks and other weapons to Ukraine, arguing that those supplies would only prolong the war.

Early in the conflict, discussions focused on the possibility of providing Kyiv with the Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter planes familiar to Ukrainian pilots. In March, the Pentagon rejected a Polish proposal to move MiG-29s to Kyiv through US bases in Germany, citing the risk of triggering escalation between Russia and NATO.

Ukraine inherited a significant fleet of Soviet fighter aircraft, including Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters, and Su-25 ground attack aircraft. Switching to Western aircraft would require Ukrainian crews to undergo lengthy training, creating logistical challenges for maintenance and repairs.