The decision by Germany, the United States, and others to send main battle tanks to Ukraine has gone further than many thought realistic just months ago.
Western nations, showcasing unity and wanting to head off a renewed Russian offensive, have cast aside fears that more advanced weaponry risked provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With tanks checked off the list, Ukrainian leaders have renewed their public appeals for Western fighter jets.
“I sent a wish list card to Santa Claus last year, and fighter jets also [were] including in this wish list,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told CNN this week.
Publicly, Western leaders eschew discussion of fighter jets going to Ukraine, and they were not officially on the agenda of a meeting between Ukraine and its allies in Ramstein, Germany, last week.
But while last year the delivery of fighter jets was declared by the Pentagon press secretary to bring “little increased capabilities, at high risk,” now Jon Finer, the US Deputy National Security Adviser, says that they have “not ruled in or out any specific systems,” including the F-16.
The Netherlands, too, elicited some raised eyebrows last week, when its foreign minister told a parliamentarian asking about F-16s that “when it comes to things that the Netherlands can supply, there are no taboos.”
The F-16, first developed in the 1970s, is a highly maneuverable fighter jet, capable of carrying six air-to-air or air-to-surface missiles under its wings. It’s no longer purchased by the US, but new iterations are still being purchased by countries like Bahrain and Jordan.
The fighter jet’s current manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has taken note. Its chief operating officer, Frank St. John, acknowledged to the Financial Times this week that there was “a lot of conversation about third party transfer of F-16s,” and that a new iteration of the F-16 just entering production could help satiate potential demand.
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