With U.S. Abrams and German Leopards now headed for the front line following months of bickering among Western allies, military planners in Kyiv are turning their attention to what they see as the logical next step in their effort to repel Russian invaders — shipments of modern fighter jets, Politico writes.
Conversations with more than half a dozen Western military officials and diplomats confirm an internal debate about supplying Ukraine with jet fighters is already underway, pushed by Ukrainian officials with support from Baltic states.
“The next natural step would be fighters,” a diplomat from a northern European country said.
The debate will likely prove even more contentious than the row over supplying tanks. In Europe, multiple officials and diplomats said their governments no longer consider the idea a non-starter, but that fears of escalation remain high.
Washington has told Kyiv that supplying aircraft is a “no-go, for the moment,” the diplomat quoted above said, but added: “There’s a red line there — but last summer we had a red line on the HIMARS, and that moved. Then it was battle tanks, and that’s moving.”
“Fighters are completely unconceivable today, but we might have this discussion in two, three weeks,” another senior European official said, also emphasizing the speed with which Western arms supplies are growing.
Defence ministers from Ukraine’s allies are due to hold a further summit next month at the U.S. military base of Ramstein, in southwest Germany, where aviation and air support are expected to be a key focus.
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra told the Dutch parliament last week that his Cabinet would look at supplying F-16 fighter jets if Kyiv requests them.
That followed comments last month from Slovakian Foreign Affairs Minister Rastislav Kacer, who told Interfax-Ukraine that his government was ready to hand Soviet-era MiG-29 fighters to Kyiv.
Other senior politicians are significantly less enthusiastic. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ruled out fighter jet deliveries Wednesday, citing the need to prevent further military escalation.