Western allies appear to have retreated from supplying F-16 and other western fighter jets to Ukraine over the past 24 hours, with the UK joining the US in quashing Kyiv’s hopes it could obtain the jets soon after the west agreed to send it tanks.
Joe Biden, US president, when asked at the White House late on Monday if his country would provide F-16s, answered simply “no”, although he emphasised on Tuesday morning he would remain in discussions with Ukraine about its weapons requests.
Later on Tuesday, the UK also said supplying western jets was not practical. “These are sophisticated pieces of equipment,” a Downing St spokesperson said. “We do not think it is practical to send those jets into Ukraine.”
Ukraine responded by saying it would continue lobbying, arguing that the west had repeatedly said no to supplying weapons such as tanks before relenting over time. Oleksii Reznikov, the defence minister, said on a visit to Paris: “All types of assistance at the beginning went through the ‘no’ stage. This means ‘no’ as of today.”
His French counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu, reiterated there was “no taboo” on the supply of jets, echoing similar remarks made by Emmanuel Macron on Monday evening. France also said it would donate 12 Caesar howitzers to Ukraine after the summit between the two ministers.
The French president had said that “nothing is excluded in principle” when asked about western fighter jets for Ukraine – but he then laid out a series of criteria before making a decision.
Any delivery would have to “not be escalatory”, Macron said, and the jets could “not be likely to hit Russian soil but purely to aid the resistance effort”. Arms supply must also not weaken the capacity of the French armed forces, he added.