Shortly after President Biden announced Ukraine would be getting the Western-made tanks it sought, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was demanding fighter jets and longer-range missiles.
Ukrainian officials have been lobbying for months to receive F-15 or F-16 fighter jets from the US and Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACAMS), munitions with a range of up to 190 miles.
The US has held off on providing such arms due to concerns they could be used to target Russian territory. But the US has previously ruled out other equipment that it eventually sent to Ukraine, including the M1 Abrams tanks that Biden just announced the US would be supplying.
Yury Sak, an advisor to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters that he’s confident Ukraine will get everything it wants. “They didn’t want to give us heavy artillery, then they did. They didn’t want to give us HIMARS systems, then they did. They didn’t want to give us tanks, now they’re giving us tanks. Apart from nuclear weapons, there is nothing left that we will not get,” he said.
Sak said that the next “big hurdle” would be getting fighter jets. “If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense… It’s not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want,” he said.
POLITICO reported Thursday that conversations between Western military officials on supplying Ukraine with advanced aircraft are already underway. Lockheed Martin has said that it’s ready to supply F-16s when Western countries choose to send them to Ukraine and that it plans to ramp up production of the aircraft.
Russia continues to warn against escalations of military aid, and the Kremlin said Thursday that it views the provision of tanks as the West’s growing direct involvement in the conflict. The New York Times acknowledged on Wednesday that by sending tanks, the US is inching closer to a direct clash with Russia.