Now that Ukraine has secured US and German agreement to provide Abrams and Leopard tanks respectively – and to allow their allies to do the same – Kyiv has moved on to the next item on its shopping list: Western combat aircraft.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov discussed the issue Tuesday with French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu this week in Paris, urging Europe to provide aviation “platforms” to help with his country’s ground-to-air defense.
“I don’t know how quick it will be, this response from Western allies,” Reznikov told reporters, but added that he is optimistic, and that he believes “it will be as soon as possible.”
Lecornu told reporters there are “no taboos” on sending fighter jets, but meanwhile made no commitment to do so.
Poland and Baltic nations such as Estonia have already expressed their support for Ukraine to acquire the warplanes, but the US, Britain and other larger allies are not budging.
Max Blaine, a spokesperson for Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, told reporters Tuesday that sending fighter jets to Ukraine simply is “not practical.”
Blaine said “the UK’s Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets are extremely sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly.”
US President Joe Biden told reporters on Monday that his administration is not willing to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Reznikov told reporters that a “no” at present does not necessarily mean a “no” in the future.
“All types of help first passed through the ‘no’ stage,” he said. “Which only means ‘no’ at today’s given moment. The second stage is, ‘Let’s talk and study technical possibilities.’ The third stage is, ‘Let’s get your personnel trained.’ And the fourth stage is the transfer (of equipment).
“Remember the story of the German Leopards — the answer was also ‘no,’” he added. “And now we have a tank coalition. Therefore, I believe an airplane coalition is within reach. But first there should always be a leader. And that’s why I’m here.”