Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pressure campaign to get Western countries to commit to providing his forces with fighter jets has made headway last week as Poland and Slovakia moved closer to giving them to Ukraine to fight Russia. 

Zelensky wasted little time after securing tanks to move on to fighter jets as an essential ingredient for victory. One of the top Ukrainian diplomats said the country cannot defeat Russia without a world-class air defense. 

Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger told Zelensky during a meeting last week that he can count on his country’s help in securing these fighter jets. The Financial Times, citing individuals familiar with the conversation, reported that Zelensky also made diplomatic gains with Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. 

The paper noted that Slovakia can provide 11 Soviet-built MiG-29s, but these would require NATO air cover. The report said Ukraine is expecting the arrival of U.S.-made F-16s early next year. Poland has MiG-29s that will be replaced by advanced U.S. fighters, the report said. 

“It is in the interest of Slovak but also European security to help you,” Heger told Zelensky, according to the FT. “We will take this request that you asked for and work on it. You…are important to us and we want you to succeed.”

Poland said it will work with its NATO allies about potentially providing Ukraine with F-16s. 

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda told the BBC that sending the fighter jet is not an easy decision to make. 

He said sending F-16s would pose a “serious problem” because his country has fewer than 50. Duda said Warsaw does not have enough and would need “many more.”

A Kremlin spokesman said the West is drawing closer to a direct war with Russia, the paper reported. 

“We see this as the UK, France, and Germany’s growing involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” the spokesman said. “The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing.”

Rishi Sunak, the British prime minister, signaled Thursday that the UK will eventually provide Ukraine with fighter jets after announcing plans to train Ukrainian pilots.

He reiterated earlier comments that “nothing is off the table” in terms of weapons for Kyiv, and said training these pilots would be the first step in the process.

“When it comes to fighter combat aircraft, of course, they are part of the conversation,” he said during a press conference in England standing alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to The New York Times. “We do need to make sure that they can operate the aircraft that they potentially could be using.”

The Ukrainian air force is generally comprised of Soviet-era Russian fighters, mainly the Mig-29, which first flew in 1977.

Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s deputy foreign affairs minister, said, “A victory of Ukraine without modern air force is scarcely imaginable. That’s why we urgently need Western fighter jets like F-16 & F35 as well as Eurofighter & Tornado. Let’s do it together dear allies in DC & Berlin.”

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has so far ruled out providing Ukraine with fighter jets and warned allies about the dangers of being in a “constant competition to outbid each other” with weapons for Ukraine.

TRENDPOST: Zelensky said last week that he was assured by European leaders that they will be with “us until our victory.”

“I’ve heard it from a number of European leaders… about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft,” he said.

That comment should surprise no one, after the recent decision by Western countries to prolong the war by providing tanks. (See “U.S., NATO, UKRAINE: NO PEACE PERMITTED. TANKS NOT ENOUGH, ZELENSKY WANTS MORE WEAPONS” 31 Jan 2023 and “FIGHTER JETS NEXT ON THE LIST TO BE SENT TO UKRAINE” 31 Jan 2023.) 

The entire process has become something of a bad joke. Ukraine requests weapons that were once considered off-limits, and the West refuses. Then there are leaks that these weapons are being considered until another billion-dollar package includes them.

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