The US has reportedly approved the transfer of 18 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands, a move that could escalate the tensions with Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
US supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the US State Department has given the green light for the sale of 18 F-16 jets to Ukraine, which has been seeking to modernize its air force and bolster its defenses against Russian aggression. The deal, which is worth about $600 million, includes six jets from Denmark and 12 from the Netherlands, as well as spare parts, training and maintenance support.
The US has been a staunch ally of Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed separatist rebels in the Donbas region, where more than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting. The US has provided more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including lethal weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles. The US has also expressed its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and urged Russia to withdraw its troops and weapons from the border area.
F-16 jets could enhance Ukraine’s air capabilities
The F-16 is a single-engine, multirole fighter jet that can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. It is one of the most widely used combat aircraft in the world, with more than 2,000 in service in 25 countries. The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), a range of 2,200 miles and can carry a variety of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, bombs and rockets.
The F-16 jets could enhance Ukraine’s air capabilities, which are currently limited by its aging Soviet-era fleet of MiG-29s and Su-27s. According to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Ukraine had only 39 combat-capable aircraft in 2020, compared to Russia’s 1,600. The F-16 jets could also help Ukraine deter Russian air incursions into its airspace, which have increased in frequency and intensity in recent months.
Russia warns of ‘irreversible consequences’ of arms sales to Ukraine
However, the transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine could also provoke a strong reaction from Russia, which considers Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence and views any foreign military assistance as a threat to its security. Russia has repeatedly warned of “irreversible consequences” of arms sales to Ukraine, and accused the US and its allies of fueling the conflict in Donbas.
Russia has also deployed tens of thousands of troops and heavy weapons near the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a possible invasion or escalation. The Kremlin has said that it is conducting military exercises in response to NATO’s activities in the region, but has also demanded that Ukraine stop its “provocative actions” and respect the Minsk agreements, which aim to end the violence in Donbas.
The US and its allies have urged Russia to de-escalate the situation and engage in dialogue with Ukraine. They have also reaffirmed their commitment to defend Ukraine if it is attacked by Russia. The US and NATO have increased their presence and patrols in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, as well as their military exercises and training with Ukrainian forces.