According to the Head of foreign policy for the European Union, Josep Borrell, U.S. approval for Ukrainian pilots to receive training to fly F-16s has generated an irresistible momentum, which will ultimately result in the fighter jets showing up on the Ukrainian battlefield.
U.S President, Joe Biden announced his support for training Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets during last week’s Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan.
Josep Borrell remarked, “You know, it’s always the same thing: we talk, and at first, everyone’s reluctant.” He used the protracted discussion and initial resistance to the shipment of cutting-edge Leopard combat tanks to Ukraine as an example.
“And at the end — with the Leopards, with the F-16 at the end — the decision comes to provide this military support because it is absolutely needed.”
NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the training decision was the exact push necessary toward making the jets available to Ukraine.
Before meeting with EU Defense Ministers, Stoltenberg said, “Announcing clearly that they will start training — this is an important step that partly will enable us to deliver fighter jets at some stage.”
The NATO Secretary-General added that it also proved that the West would not stand down in the face of Russia, saying such a decision “is sending a very clear signal that we are there for the long term and that Russia cannot wait us out.”
Though Polish Defense Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak said that such training was still in the planning phase, Borrell claimed that training for Ukrainian pilots had already begun in Poland and some other countries. The Netherlands and Denmark, among others, are also making plans for such training.
Decision On Delivering Fighter Jets Not Taken
No decision on delivering fourth-generation fighter jets has been taken yet, but training pilots now; a process that takes several months, will help speed up battle readiness once a formal decision is made.
Dutch Defense Minister, Kajsa Ollongren stated, “We can continue and also finalize the plans that we’re making with Denmark and other allies to start these these trainings. And of course, that is the first step that you have to take.”
“We will continue discussing with our allies and with countries that might have F-16s available about that next step. But that’s not on the table right now,” Ollongren added.
Ukraine has long pleaded for the advanced fighter to give it a competitive edge as it fights Russia’s invasion, which is now in its second year. Additionally, this new strategy makes it possible for multiple countries to supply the aircraft and for the United States to assist in pilot training.
After for more than a year refusing to permit any transfer of the aircraft or to perform training due to concerns that it may worsen relations with Russia, the Biden administration has now abruptly reversed course with the decision. U.S. officials have also argued against the F-16 by claiming that it would be challenging and take months to learn to fly and logistically support such a sophisticated jet.
Whether the Biden administration will directly send its own F-16s to Ukraine is still under consideration. In any case, it requires support from other allies as the United States cannot supply the entire fleet of jets that Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy claims is required.
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