F-16 Jets to Ukraine: Russian Minister Warns of ‘Escalation Scenario’

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko has warned that supplying F-16 jets to Ukraine comes with “enormous risks” to Western nations, including raising already-simmering tensions between the countries and Russia.

“We can see that Western countries continue to stick to an escalation scenario, which carries enormous risks for them. In any case, we will take it into account when making plans. We have all the necessary means to achieve our goals,” Grushko said to TASS Russian News Agency on May 20 when asked about the potential supply of F-16 to Ukraine. The Russian minister’s comments come as the Biden administration has become more open to allowing Ukraine to use F-16 aircraft.

In January, during an exchange with reporters, President Joe Biden was asked whether the United States would supply Ukraine with F-16s, to which he replied, “No.”

However, on May 19, Biden told G-7 counterparts that Washington is willing to support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft. As part of the decision, the Biden administration intends to allow allies to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, including the U.S.-made F-16s.

In a May 19 tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the U.S. decision “to support an international fighter jet coalition. This will greatly enhance our army in the sky. I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima.”

Ukraine has been pushing Western allies to provide it with advanced fighter jets in order to defend its airspace. However, Washington has so far avoided granting that request due to concerns that such a move would escalate tensions with Russia.

F-16 in Ukraine

A lightweight and versatile aircraft, the F-16 is a supersonic jet with both defensive and offensive capabilities. As constant barrages by Russian missiles negatively affect Ukraine’s ground-launch systems, advanced fighter jets will be a potent counter-offensive tactic for Kyiv.

F-16s can be launched quickly in just a few minutes and shoot down enemy aircraft and offensive missiles.

In an interview with the local Espreso TV, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuri Ignat said that “we will win this war” once the military gets its hands on F-16s. By deploying the aircraft, Ukraine will be able to provide defensive cover in regions that have been earlier out of range of their anti-aircraft missiles, he claimed.

“We need F-16s to become an integral part of our air defense. These fighters can engage aerial targets from both high and low altitudes,” Ignat said while pointing out that the jets can carry advanced weapons.

“By utilizing F-16s, our ground troops will be able to swiftly liberate occupied Ukrainian territories by targeting enemy command posts, military groups, and logistics supply chains.”

US Aid

The United States has committed over $37.6 billion in aid (pdf) to Ukraine so far, out of which over $36.9 billion has been sent to Kyiv since Russia invaded the country in February last year.

Several GOP leaders have urged the Biden administration to stop spending billions of dollars in military aid. In an April 20 letter to Biden, 19 Republican lawmakers warned that if the United States continues to provide aid to Kyiv, it could lead to further escalation of the war.

“Over the past year, the U.S. has been the principal financier of the Ukrainian defense effort. As the war enters its second year, there is no end in sight and no clear strategy to bring this war to a close. A proxy war with Russia in Ukraine is not in the strategic interest of the United States and risks an escalation that could spiral out of control,” the letter said.

Some Republicans have warned that helping Ukraine could detract the United States from assisting Taiwan against China. During a May 17 event at Hudson Institute, Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state under the Trump administration, dismissed these arguments.

Pompeo pointed out that such arguments are predicated on “a falsity of a zero-sum game that we can only have so many artillery rounds.” He also warned that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is looking at what is happening in Ukraine to determine whether to invade Taiwan.

From The Epoch Times

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