US Focuses On Supporting F-16s For Ukraine
The US says it will give the go-ahead to sending F-16 warrior planes to Ukraine when its pilots are prepared. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has offered that remark in letters to European partners. Be that as it may, on Wednesday, Ukraine made it clear it doesn’t hope to get those planes until the following year in fact. Its pilots haven’t begun their preparation in Europe, and it’s hazy the way in which long that preparing will endure.
As Nick Paton Walsh explains. Transferring those planes is no simple task. Getting Ukraine’s F-16s was always going to be an ambitious, complex task. You have to provide technicians inside Ukraine who are Ukrainian to do the vast amounts of servicing that these complex jets need between their flights to keep them operational.
You need to train English F-16 pilots. That training project was supposed to happen in NATO’s European allied nations. The program for it was complex. It didn’t move as fast as people had necessarily hoped. So the initial ambition of the Biden administration to see F-16s flying in Ukraine by the end of the year has clearly been stalled. And that’s been recognized by Ukrainian officials in the last few hours here.
It’s a huge deal really for Ukraine, because while they wouldn’t really necessarily impact the frequency of sirens that you hear in a population center like this, that’s mostly because of long distance missile attacks, they could have a big impact on the southern counter-offensive front line where Russia has air superiority and the half metric ton bomb that the Russians drop on Ukrainian positions have been slowing that offensive and causing enormous casualties. So the F-16s were a chance of Ukraine redressing that balance.
US Focuses On Supporting F-16s For Ukraine Whenever Pilots Are Prepared
The idea could happen this year. It’s fair to say that was ambitious. In fact, that is not happening. Well, possibly that’s a reflection of how long these tasks have been taking inside of NATO’s itself. We’ve seen ourselves when we’re on the outskirts of the town, most recently captured by Ukraine, how important air superiority could be for Ukraine to push the Russians back to help speed up that particular advance erosion.
Important, certainly, because it enabled them to keep moving south. At the same time, we’ve also been hearing from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talking about how they will not attack Ukraine. And if they were attacked, they could potentially resort to nuclear weapons and Poland to put that in context. Belarus has already been used for the invasion of Ukraine last year.
Belarus doesn’t have its own separate nuclear arsenal. They rely on Russia for that. And so Lukashenko often making these statements to suggest they don’t really want to be part of this war, but they shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be weak at this stage. Enjoys minimal domestic support, but was seminal to Putin in turning around the Viognier coup a few months ago. But still a deeply complex day for Ukraine, where the thought of F-16s being delayed will be poorly accepted by so many here.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, the Dnipro, Ukraine. The head of NATO’s doing some damage control. Meanwhile, after controversial remarks by his office office director earlier this week, Secretary and Stoltenberg stressed on Thursday that only Ukraine can decide when to hold talks with Russia to end the war. That clarification necessary after one of his top aides said Ukraine ceding territory to Russia could be one way for key to achieve peace and join NATO.
The secretary general now saying, quote, What is important is that the Ukrainians themselves must decide when they are willing to sit down at the negotiating table. The initial remark about ceding territory drew criticism from Ukraine as well. Unsurprisingly, a top adviserto President Zelensky called the idea ridiculous and warned that if Vladimir Putin does not suffer a crushing defeat, Russia would be emboldened to act the same way again.
Now for more on this, let’s bring in Mick Ryan. He’s a retired Army major general and in the Australian Army and the author of War Transform the Future of 21st Century Great Power Competition and Conflict. He joins me now from Canberra. Always good to see you, Mick. Jens Stoltenberg, essentially, you know, as we saw walking back those comments from his own office.
What did you make of that coming from Stoltenberg office in the first place? Potentially damaging?
Well, good. I Michael, it’s good to be with you again.I was surprised initially. I mean, Stoltenberg has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine throughout the war. And these kind of comments haven’t passed his lips certainly. So, you know, they’re not good and not productive comments, but he’ll be minimizing the damage And potentially that office director may be finding other employment elsewhere in the near future.
Yeah, I guess when you when you look at the potential harm to the overall arc of the conflict, I mean, do those comments just by being raised risk inserting, you know, a splinter into the broader unity conversation?
Well, I think they do certainly for a toe that has been remarkably unified and focused on supporting Ukraine, the Vilnius communique was very clear on this. It certainly provides a wedge for Russia and its misinformation operations, whether it’s a reality or not. It will seek to wage any disunity. Finally, it’s a real distraction for the Ukrainian leadership. They are very, very busy indeed fighting a war defending their country and these kind of things really unproductive. Yeah. Okay.
So when it comes to the substance of those comments, what might a peace deal look like?
I mean, most or many resolutions of war end up with some level of compromise. But Zelensky has repeatedly said not an inch of Ukrainian soul would be given up. Well, it’s hard to see either side compromising at the moment, certainly up to Boucher. A peace deal looks like Russia at all of Ukraine, including Crimea. A peace deal for Russia looks like them retaining what they have. There’s a massive gap in between.
They’re aimed at least until the Ukrainian presidential elections are over. It’s very difficult to see compromise Stoltenberg also spoke about the threats to smaller neighbors of Russia. I’ll just read what he said. He said Small countries like Latvia and Lithuania cannot accept that because they are small neighboring countries. Then Russia shall rule over them. I mean, that was important clarification. Russian that he made.
Do you think it was related to that initial comment out of his office of reassurance? I mean, having to make clear NATO’s positions on those other neighbors?
I think it’s absolutely related to those comments.
Those Eastern countries, not just in the Baltics, but countries like Poland, would have thought, well, if parts of Ukraine can be given up to appease Russia, why wouldn’t be parts of our nations?
So I would suggest the NATO’s secretary general is probably spend a lot of time and probably has a lot more time to spend in the near future, reassuring Eastern European NATO’s allies.
I want to ask you to before we let you go, when you look at advances incremental as they are in the south, around places perhaps like rebutting that, did you see a real chance Ukraine could cut off Russia’s Landbridge? Furthermore, and what effect could that have on the conflict?
Indeed, I believe there’s surely a decent opportunity the Russians are under a ton of tension. We’re seeing a ton of narrative proof of this. In any case, that doesn’t remove the way that this has been an uncommonly extreme battle, an exceptionally horrendous battle. For the Ukrainians. But they determined and I think they should be able to do that in this fighting season. Major General Mick Ryan, always a pleasure sir. Good to see make. Thank you. Thanks, Michael.
US Focuses On Supporting F-16s For Ukraine Whenever Pilots Are Prepared
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