Ukraine War Could Rapidly Escalate As Pressure to Send F-16s Mount

F-16s ukraine
Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This week President Joe Biden has to put a pin in his usual long weekend getaways to the beach to head to Japan for the G-7 Summit. There will be plenty of meetings for Uncle Joe to try not to sleep through, no doubt, but the top of the list is anticipated discussions on what comes next for Ukraine.

The war predicted to last just 72 hours is well into its 15th month with no signs of ending any time soon. Over this protracted conflict, the United States has provided the Eastern European nation with massive amounts of funding and equipment. Yet, it hasn’t been enough to end this war.

So what is it that Ukraine finally needs to reclaim its territory and independence from the Russian invaders? Advanced American fighter jets.

Tenacious Requests

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been requesting fighter jets for months, even though the United States government has so far firmly denied such a request. You can’t blame the Ukrainian leader for sticking to his tune; after all, we’ve buckled with the Abrams tanks in the past, so there is no reason to think he can’t break us down on the jets.

President Zelenskyy recently said to European leaders:

“We need additional air defense systems and missiles. We also need modern fighter jets, without which no air defense system will be perfect. And I am sure we will get there.”

I am also sure he will get there. Already European countries have started to build a “jet coalition” for Ukraine, with the United Kingdom pledging to train Ukrainian fighter pilots and Belgium following suit. 

Some of these European countries have even started talks to buy F-16s on Ukraine’s behalf to send to the war-torn country. Many American legislators have been on board for a while with sending fighter jet capabilities to Ukraine.

In a letter from twelve Republican and Democrat lawmakers to President Biden, Ukraine’s request was foot stomped:

“The United States can provide Ukraine with both immediate military assistance to defend against Russian advances and in preparation for Kyiv’s expected spring offensive while simultaneously beginning the process of providing Ukraine with long-term air superiority capability.”

So when we eventually capitulate to this request, how will it look?

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All About The Proxy

In January, an unnamed Pentagon spokesman told Politico that they weren’t “opposed to third-party transfer of F-16s” to Ukraine. This means the Pentagon is not against allowing countries that have purchased our F-16s to send them to Ukraine.

European countries are champing at the bit for this approval to take place, with the German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius telling reporters that Germany sending their F-16s:

“depends on the White House…to decide whether the F16 fighter planes can be delivered.”

The typical European ally answer – put all the decision-making on the United States so that if and when our terrible foreign policy maneuvers fail, it’s on us, not them. We call that low risk, high reward. 

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If this tap dance seems familiar, it should; it is very similar to what Europe did to get the U.S. to agree to send tanks to Ukraine. However, if we decided to send F-16s either on our own or by approving other countries to send F-16s we sold them, it’s more involved than just flying the jets over to Kiev and heading back.

U.S. officials say that the soonest F-16s could be operational in Ukraine upon approval from the White House is 18 months – longer than the war itself has run so far. This estimated time frame includes training and delivery time.

If, after the G-7 Summit, President Biden agrees to send F-16s, the soonest Kiev would have them would be the end of next calendar year. Welcome to the next Forever War.

Tick Tock Goes The Clock

The pressure from Europe and Ukraine is ramping up not just because of an eagerness to beat back Putin, but because there is reason to believe U.S. aid to Ukraine may have an expiration date. The approved $48 billion aid package is running low, with a paltry $6 billion left. 

With ongoing banter over the debt ceiling in D.C., there are concerns that another aid package might meet some pushback from the few Republicans who want to tighten the purse strings. Additionally, a looming Presidential election has many wondering what the next resident of the White House will be willing to do for Ukraine.

Former President and current presidential candidate Donald Trump told CNN viewers that he doesn’t view the situation between Ukraine and Russia “in terms of winning and losing” and also claimed if he was President, he could end the fighting in 24 hours.

But the line that probably has defense contractors and Zelenskyy uneasy was in response to Mr. Trump’s willingness to send more military equipment to Ukraine:

“We’re giving away so much equipment; we don’t have ammunition for ourselves right now.”

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While a rather simplistic view of our inventory situation, he’s not wrong.

Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic International Studies said in February of this year:

“For a couple of key items, the stockpile is getting low.”

Welcome words to one of our other adversaries across the other blue ocean.

Peace From The East?

Ukraine received a visit from China’s special envoy, highly respected diplomat Li Hui, to discuss political peace between Ukraine and Russia. China has been playing a skillful game of chess, positioning itself as a possible broker of peace, an alternative to the dollar, and generally all things international.

At the G-7 meeting, a peace summit for Ukraine is on the menu for discussion. Notably, President Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said Kiev is interested in the following:

“China being involved in the implementation of the Ukrainian peace formula.”

Should that alarm us in the West? You’re damn right it should. I don’t fault Ukraine for going to whoever they believe will benefit them the most. Still, it should raise eyebrows that we keep sending more and more weapons to a nation known for illicit weapon trafficking that is now testing out getting in bed with our biggest rival.

But alas, that doesn’t give American lawmakers pause.

Democrat Senator for Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse said:

“The supportive country should be getting Ukraine what it needs and giving Ukraine the benefit of the doubt as to what it needs…”

The same country that claims armored vehicles have arrived only in “batches” we should give the benefit of the doubt? European Command General Christopher Cavoli told Congress “over 98 percent” of the armored vehicles had been delivered. Which is it?

Is Zelenskyy lying, or is General Cavoli lying? Who do we give the benefit of the doubt to in that situation? And how long will it be before American military technology finds its way from Eastern Europe to the Red Dragon in the East?

Especially after President Biden traded one of the most prolific Eastern European arms dealers in history for a WNBA player?

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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