Ukraine pushes for Western fighter jets after commitments to supply tanks

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine wins support from Baltic nations and Poland in its quest to obtain Western fighter jets, but there are no signs that larger nations like the US and Britain have changed their stance of refusing to provide the warplanes to Kyiv after almost a year of battling Russia’s invading forces.

“Ukraine needs fighter jets… missiles, tanks. We need to act,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu says today in the Latvian capital of Riga at a news conference with his Baltic and Polish colleagues. Those countries, which lie on NATO’s eastern flank, feel especially threatened by Russia and have been the leading advocates for providing military aid.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov held talks with his French counterpart, saying they did not discuss specific fighter jets but did talk about aviation “platforms” to help Ukraine’s ground-to-air defense.

“I don’t know how quick it will be, this response from Western allies” to Kyiv’s requests for fighter jets, Reznikov says. “I’m optimistic and I think it will be as soon as possible.”

He also lists weapons Ukraine has sought in the past year, starting with Stingers, and said the first response was always, “Impossible.” Eventually though, he says, “it became possible.’’

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, speaking alongside Reznikov, says there are “no taboos” on sending fighter jets. He also confirms that France is sending 12 more Caesar cannons in the coming weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that France doesn’t exclude sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but he laid out multiple conditions before such a step is taken, including not leading to an escalation of tensions or using the aircraft “to touch Russian soil,” and not resulting in weakening “the capacities of the French army.”

Reznikov’s trip comes a week after Western nations pledged to send Kyiv sophisticated modern tanks.

Several Western leaders have expressed concern that providing warplanes could escalate the nearly year-long conflict and draw them deeper into the war. Such fighter jets would offer Ukraine a major boost, but countering Russia’s massive air force would still be a major challenge.

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