US President Joe Biden said Monday he
will not send F16 fighter jets to Ukraine
to help in its war against Russia, a move that threatens to drive a rift in Western unity over the Moscow-initiated conflict.
," the president replied when asked by journalists at the White House if he was in favor of sending those planes, which according to the Ukrainian leaders, head their last list of desired weapons.
needs at least 200 Western fighters to protect its skies,
replacing current Soviet aircraft of various types that are now obsolete, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said in comments to international media.
"At the moment, the F-16 is the most likely candidate to replace the old Soviet aircraft," the officer stressed. Ignat said that Ukraine needs air cover in both wartime and peacetime.
He explained that the Russian air fleet is currently concentrated
in some 170 airports between Russia, Belarus and the occupied territories
But most of all, it is
5-6 times larger than the Ukrainian one
in terms of the number of combat aircraft "In addition, we are inferior in technology. Therefore, there is a great need. It is necessary to create up to five tactical aviation brigades with a type of western-style multi-role aircraft," the Ukrainian official said.
But for now, the US answer is "No."
And it doesn't seem like it's going to happen, for now the same thing that happened with the sending of tanks.
After serious divisions, Western nations finally agreed last week
to send modern NATO-standard tanks
, one of the most powerful weapons in their conventional armies.
The possibility of sending F16 fighter jets to Ukraine is a source of tension for Western countries that support Ukraine.
Improved military support
raised hopes for Kiev
to start receiving F16 fighter jets soon to bolster its dwindling air force.
The issue, however, remains a matter of heated debate in the West.
Divisions in the West
The prospect of providing Kiev with fighters to help repel invading Russian forces could jeopardize the unity of Ukraine's Western allies, amid
fears it would escalate the conflict that
began almost a year ago and further involve the allies .
in the war.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was scheduled to meet authorities in Paris on Tuesday and sending fighter jets to Ukraine was expected to
be on the agenda
Western planes would give Ukraine a big boost, although taking on the massive Russian air force would still be a big challenge.
In an earlier phase of the conflict, talk turned to the possibility of offering kyiv Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters with which Ukrainian pilots are familiar.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (right) and French President Emmanuel Macron do not rule out sending F16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The Pentagon in March rejected a proposal to transfer MiG-29 fighters to Kiev via a US base in Germany, citing
a high risk of sparking an escalation between Russia and NATO.
Ukraine inherited a significant fleet of Soviet-era combat aircraft, including
Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters
, as well as Su-25 ground-attack aircraft.
Switching to Western models would require Ukrainian troops to undergo lengthy training and would also
increase the logistical risks associated with their maintenance and repair
Ukraine inherited a significant fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets, including Su-27 fighters.
Poland, a strong advocate of the European Union
providing military aid to Ukraine,
has joined the US position not to send the fighter jets.
"At the moment, there are no official talks about the transfer of Polish F16s" to Ukraine, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, Poland's deputy defense minister, told AFP.
"The topic does not exist
"The topic does not exist
," he insisted.
For their part, France and the Netherlands have been
open to the idea of sending advanced fighter jets
, even if Ukraine has not yet formally requested them.
The position of France and the Netherlands
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he would
not rule out delivering fighter jets to Ukraine
, though he warned of the danger of the conflict escalating.
Macron held talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has already floated the idea of sending Dutch F16s.
"There's no taboo, but it
would be a big step
," Rutte said.
After months of haggling, the Ukrainian authorities last week persuaded their Western allies to send the tanks.
The decision was made despite the
reservations and caution of some NATO members
, such as the United States and Germany.
In South America, the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ruled out sending munitions to Ukraine and
instead proposed creating a peace group to end the conflict
, upon receiving German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
"Brazil is a country of peace," he emphasized on Monday at a joint press conference at the Planalto Palace, adding: "My suggestion is that we create a group of countries that sits at the table with Ukraine and Russia to try to reach an peace".
Source: AFP and AP
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