British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that sending fighter jets to Ukraine isn’t the right approach “for now,” but stressed that nothing should be ruled out.
“I’ve been involved with this for a pretty long time. And I’ve learned two things; never rule anything in and never rule anything out,” Wallace told reporters when asked why Britain wouldn’t send Ukraine jets, according to Reuters.
“This is not a solid decision,” Wallace said. “For now, I don’t think that’s the right approach. … What’s going to move on this conflict this year is going to be the ability for Ukrainians to deploy Western armor against Russia.”
A day earlier, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was not “practical” to send Western-made fighter jets to Ukraine due to the months-long training that would be required. But Wallace made clear on Wednesday that London could change its position, as Germany and the US did on providing Kyiv with heavy tanks.
Long-training periods have also not deterred the US from promising some equipment for Kyiv, including the Patriot air defense systems. Military experts say Patriot training should take about six months. Ukrainian soldiers are currently taking an expedited training course for the Patriot systems, which is still expected to take several months. The training is taking place inside the US at a base in Oklahoma.
Wallace said the UK and its allies would have to be “pretty sure” that fighter jets would be “the next battle-winning requirement.” He said that for now, “I think we’re focused on the tanks, the land battle.”
President Biden this week said “no” when asked if the US would give Ukraine fighter jets. But his administration is planning a different escalation by preparing to send longer-range missiles and could eventually decide to provide Kyiv with the F-16 or other aircraft despite the risk of provoking Russia.