'As needs have evolved...': US won't rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine
“At every step along the way, as needs have evolved, so too has what we have provided Ukraine,' US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quoted as saying in a report when asked about sending fighter jets to Ukraine
New Delhi: Even as the US continues to resist calls to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday stopped short of ruling out such assistance later.
“At every step along the way, as needs have evolved, so too has what we have provided Ukraine,” Blinken was quoted as saying by Bloomberg when asked about sending fighter jets to Ukraine.
“And that most recently took place with the decision to provide the Abrams tanks, and of course Germany providing the Leopard tanks and other Europeans doing the same,” he added.
Blinken said that this is an “evolving process” and the US will continue to make judgments about what we think Ukraine needs and what we think can be most effective in using.
The US has so far spurned Ukrainian pleas for fighter jets, which officials consider to be too provocative a move.
US President Joe Biden had on 30 January said the US will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Biden replied “no” when asked by reporters at the White House if he was in favor of sending the jets, which are the latest weapons requested by Ukraine’s leaders.
After Western nations finally agreed to send Ukraine modern NATO-standard tanks, the upgrade in support sparked hope in Kyiv that it will soon begin getting F-16 warplanes to bolster its own depleted air force, but the issue remains very much under debate in the West.
UK to train fighter jet pilots
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during his visit to UK, left the country with a firm British commitment to train Ukranian fighter jet pilots on NATO-standard aircraft, along with an offer of longer-range missiles.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has now been tasked with investigating which jets the UK might be able to supply to Ukraine, Downing Street announced — but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fell short of making actual promises on their supply, which his spokesman said would only ever be a “long-term” option.
Standing alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the State Department, Blinken said that US and foreign security assistance to Ukraine continues to evolve to meet the changing nature of the conflict.
When The National asked if the UK’s announcement on possibly sending planes would influence the US position, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, said,”These are sovereign decisions that nations make and we respect that.”
“We certainly have not been twisting arms one way or the other. But we have been actively talking to allies and partners about what kinds of capabilities they can provide and under what circumstances,” The National quoted Kirby as saying.
The Biden administration long held out against Ukraine’s requests for the Abrams tank, saying challenges ranged from fuel and logistics to training requirements for Ukrainian soldiers.
Ultimately, though, the US agreed to send the coveted vehicle to pave the way for larger numbers of German-made Leopard tanks.
“They need to be able to counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield in the very near term. They need to improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain. And, they need an enduring capability to deter and defend against Russian aggression over the long term,” the president had said while announcing that the US will provide Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
With inputs from agencies
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