After tanks, fly to Ukraine? Why the US and Europeans are reluctant

SAM YEH/AFP Four upgraded US-made F-16V fighter jets fly during a demonstration at a ceremony at Chiayi Air Force in southern Taiwan on November 18, 2021. (Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP)


American F-16s fly over Taiwan in November 2021.

USA – It is one “no” categorically. Joe Biden on Monday, January 30, expressed his opposition to sending F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, which asks them to continue its battles against the Russian army. This statement by the US president comes just days after the US, under pressure, finally agreed to deliver Abrams heavy tanks to Kiev.

“President Biden has been clear that he has two basic goals: to do everything possible to help Ukraine against this brutal Russian attack, and to do so without risking direct involvement from the United States or ‘NATO’remembered on the CBS channel Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO between 2009 and 2013.

Gold, “weapons that can hit Russian territory deep, like F-16 fighter jets, go too far,” believes this expert, now chairman of the think tank Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “This time it is not like the Patriot missiles or the tanks, where the problem was rather in the logistics and training of the soldiers, he adds. With fighter jets, the problem comes from the nature of the weapons themselves. »

The training of soldiers still in balance

In fact, details about the CBS Ivo Daalder, F-16 would improve the possibilities “offensives” from Ukraine and “aid in defense, especially against drones and slower missiles.”

Léo Péria-Peigné, researcher at the Ifri Security Studies Center interviewed by HuffPostdeveloped : “These planes have more advanced radar, which makes it possible to guide missiles to land and air targets from further away. They would also allow the army to regain mass: the Ukrainians lack planes, but also pilots, often fell at the same time as their machine. »

Contrary to Ivo Daalder, however, the French armor specialist believes that the American refusal is primarily to blame “soldier training, which is very long”. “For F-16s, it probably takes three years if you start from scratch. Unless it has already started – which is not impossible with Polish help – it will take at least a year” before he sees these fighters on the ground, he assesses.

Germany refuses, France hesitates

If the US refuses to deliver them, can third countries take the initiative that Poland wanted to do with the German Leopards? Many countries are equipped in Europe, including Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Romania and Denmark.

“It’s harder for airplanes because the OEM parts [la firme Lockheed Martin, ndlr] are significant. Likewise, US support for training on this old aircraft, whose first flight dates back to 1974, is essential.”, suggests Léo Péria-Peigné. That is why, he says, a unilateral delivery without the help of the United States is hardly conceivable, in contrast to the tanks”.

Either way, at the moment the US isn’t the only one being cautious. In Germany, “the question of fighter jets doesn’t even arise”evacuated Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “Topic does not exist”, also told AFP Wojciech Skurkiewicz, Polish deputy defense minister. For the Netherlands, the subject is not “taboo, but it would be a big step”.

In France, Emmanuel Macron has not completely ruled out the idea, but has set his conditions: that it is a “ request made” of Ukraine that this does not “ don’t escalate » and “ it does not impair the ability of the French army to protect its own soil.”. Everyone fears, like Joe Biden, that the war will go beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Will Biden “take the risk of a Russian response”?

Yet Joe Biden’s response contradicts the members of the administration recently interviewed by the American press. On MSNBC, the Deputy National Security Adviser for the White House Jon Finer, for example, had declared last week that the issue of the fighter jets would be discussed “ very carefully” and it’“no specific system was (was) excluded”.

“I don’t think we’re against” for dispatching F-16s, had also indicated that Political member of the Ministry of Defense on condition of anonymity. In the same media, another member of the administration asked for “no” of the President revealed that he had actually only had “no serious discussion at the highest level about the F-16s”.

Evidence therefore that a course change cannot be ruled out, such as changes in position on the Patriot missiles and then the Abrams tanks. “The line is constantly moving. At the beginning of the war they were only defensive weapons, since replaced by long-range weapons, no more artillery and now tanks…”, emphasizes Ivo Daalder. which concludes: “This means that the president (Biden) can at some point completely take the risk of a Russian response. »

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