Washington risks schism with allies over F-16s hesitancy: Report
The reaction in Washington to possibly supply Ukraine with F-16s ranges from unfavorable to unenthusiastic, as per the report.
The United risks creating a rift with its European allies by refusing to consider delivering F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, and the topic is likely to be brought up at the upcoming G7 conference in Japan, an analysis written by Dan Sabbagh and Artem Mazhulin suggested in The Guardian.
Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to Europe this week, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands announced a so-called "international coalition" to obtain US-made F-16s and train Ukrainian pilots and crews.
In a TV interview on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said there were "no taboos" about training Ukrainian pilots in France, turning the attention to the US, which must approve the deployment of any F-16s to Ukraine.
However, the reaction in Washington has ranged from unfavorable to unenthusiastic, the report noted.
"We want to ensure that the assets and systems that we offer our Ukrainian partners are the most impactful, that they can use them now," Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, said on Wednesday when asked about F-16 delivery.
US President Joe Biden has previously ruled against supplying F-16s to Ukraine, citing concerns that training pilots and ground staff would take months and that providing them to Ukraine may be perceived by the Russians as an escalatory move.
Zelensky is scheduled to speak Friday at the G7 conference in Hiroshima, Japan. The report suggested that the Ukrainian leader "will try to raise the F-16 issue, although he will want to be careful not to embarrass Biden at the meeting of the leaders of the world’s leading economies."
The two writers pointed out that Kiev is "desperate" for the F-16s as it plans a spring offensive against Moscow.
"While its [Ukraine's] small, Soviet-standard air force remains operational, it is able to run only a dozen or so combat missions a day and cannot risk too many losses in a long war," the report pointed out.
Echoing Zelensky's claims, Yuri Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force, alleged that Ukraine would not use F-16s "to hit targets on Russian territory. Territory of Ukraine occupied by Russia, yes. But Russian territory, no," in reference to the four regions that were accessed to Russia by referenda.
"We also need them [F-16s] to patrol the border and keep the Russian air force further away."
According to the report, "The most obvious problem with any gift of F-16s is that it would take at least three and more likely six to nine months to train Ukrainian pilots and crews."
Ihnat confirmed that Ukraine had been compiling a list of possible pilots and teaching them English in order for them to begin their training on flying F-16s. The incoming head of the Royal Air Force, Sir Richard Knighton, told MPs that specifics of the program were still being worked out.
However, The New York Times revealed that the United States was not allowing Ukrainian pilots to train on F-16s commanded by European countries.
In the same context, the UK's Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, indicated during a trip to Berlin that "it’s up to the White House to decide if it wants to release that technology," in reference to the F-16s.
Given the time it would take to provide the F-16s, Wallace said he did not believe the US-made aircraft was a "magic wand" for Ukraine's combat demands.
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