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The U.S. Approves Supply of F-16 Fighters to Ukraine

NATO allies are debating whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
NATO allies are debating whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Credit: Cp9asngf / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The US approved the future supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as G7 leaders meeting in Japan welcomed the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.

Until now US President Joe Biden had effectively vetoed the transfer of F-16s, with US officials citing long pilot training times and the risk of escalating the 15-month-old conflict with Russia.

In February when Biden was asked by reporters whether he would send F-16s to Ukraine, he simply said “no.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan insisted there was no about-turn in US policy but the decision was based on the “exigencies of the conflict”.

“We’ve reached a moment where it’s time to look down the road and to say ‘What is Ukraine going to need… to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression?’

“F-16s, fourth-generation fighter aircraft, are part of that mix,” he said, adding that Ukraine had committed to not use US military equipment to hit targets inside Russia.

“We are going to do everything we can to support Ukraine in the defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we are also going to proceed in a way that avoids World War III,” he added.

Ukraine, which does not possess any Western-designed jets, says the F-16s are far more effective than the Soviet-era fighters it still uses. Poland and Slovakia have handed over 27 MiG-29s to Ukraine.

Western governments have been wary of leaving their own countries undefended by giving away too much equipment. They have also avoided sending anything that could strike deep into Russian territory and give Moscow a reason to attack.

Ukraine’s President Zelensky received pledges this week from Britain and the Netherlands to help build a “jets coalition”, although leaders from both countries stopped short of saying they will send planes.

On Friday, Zelensky welcomed the news. “This will greatly enhance our army in the sky. I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the G7 summit in Hiroshima,” he said on Twitter.

Russia warns of colossal risks if the West supplies F-16s to Ukraine

Western countries will be running “colossal risks” if they supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who is quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency.

“We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves,” Grushko was quoted as saying.

“In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set.”

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