Western countries are increasingly discussing the prospect of sending warplanes to Kiev
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine had not been "excluded," as Kiev ramps up its campaign to pressure the West into donating combat aircraft to its military.
Asked about the possibility of transferring jets to Kiev's military, Macron told reporters that "nothing is excluded in principle," according to France's AFP news agency. The president added that Kiev would be forbidden from using French jets to attack Russian soil.
Macron was speaking after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who told reporters that his government saw "no taboo" around sending US-made F-16 fighters to Ukraine, but admitted it would be a "big step."
For nearly a year, the idea of sending any jets - let alone Western-designed ones - to Ukraine was considered too escalatory by the NATO powers. In a matter of days, however, the idea has now gone from a "high risk" hypothetical - in the words of the Pentagon last March - to a proposal under serious consideration.
According to various media reports, the UK has dismissed the idea of delivering its Typhoon warplanes as "too escalatory," while the US is discussing the idea of handing over its planes "very carefully" with the rest of the NATO bloc, amid pressure from the military industrial complex and its partners in the Pentagon. Poland is willing to transfer its F-16s if other NATO members follow suit, while Germany has - for now - declared a Ukrainian request that it hand over its Tornado fighters "out of the question."
The debate over sending jets to Ukraine appears to be following the same trajectory as the months-long discussion over tanks. By the time France, Germany, the UK and US all agreed to donate tanks this month, the decision had been telegraphed for weeks through increasingly concrete government-sourced reports in the Western media.
Ukrainian officials believed throughout this process that their Western backers would eventually cave and announce tank deliveries. The country's foreign minister ridiculed Germany's public recalcitrance, insisting that Berlin would "do it anyway," long before the formal announcement was made.
Kiev appears equally hopeful about receiving aircraft from the West. Posting on Facebook last week, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security Council, Aleksey Danilov, shared a video of American F-16s along with the caption "soon in the sky of Ukraine."