Zelensky wants fighter jets, and Western publications are asking whether NATO tanks will even reach Ukraine
Days after receiving promises of tanks, President Volodymyr Zelensky began urging his Western backers to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine, and quickly, the New York Times reported.
“Russia is trying to drag out the war to exhaust our forces,” Zelensky said in his regular evening video address. “So we have to turn time into our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up deliveries, and the discovery of new weapons options,” he added.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden said the US would not provide Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets. The White House refused to comment on whether the head of state completely rules out the use of planes or only their immediate transfer, writes BTA.
But even as for the weapons Ukraine has already managed to secure, it faces a pressing logistical problem: how quickly the new tanks could arrive and whether they would be there in time to help repel an expected Russian offensive, which can start as early as February, the publication asks.
The “Challenger 2” tanks promised by Great Britain will not arrive in Ukraine before the end of spring, the British Minister of Defense said yesterday. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the delivery of 14 Leopard 2 tanks could take about three months. Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters that the US would need “months” to deliver 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Berlin’s decision to send Leopard tanks paved the way for other European countries to send their own tanks to Ukraine. Each government will only determine the speed with which they will be delivered. But even if they arrive relatively quickly, it is not yet clear whether the dozens of tanks will be enough to repel the Russian offensive. Part of the problem is not delivery, but training, the New York Times points out.
Singh warned that training the military to operate the US Abarums “will take a very long time”.
In addition, Ukrainian officials have said they need about 300 tanks, and last week a Pentagon spokeswoman hinted at concerns about availability. “We just don’t have these tanks available in excess in the US inventory,” she said.
Sonny Butterworth, a ground warfare expert at the London-based analyst firm Jane’s, said NATO countries that would train Ukrainian troops to handle Western tanks would likely only “give them the basics.” Training for longer-term maintenance of the tanks is likely to be conducted later, he added.
Last night, Joe Biden said that the US would not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but added that he would soon visit Poland, writes the Guardian. As the first anniversary of Russia’s offensive approaches, there has been speculation that the US president may visit Europe as a sign of support for the alliance.
Ben Wallace scathingly noted yesterday: “I think what we know about all these requests is that … the initial answer is no, and in the end, it turns out to be yes.”
But with the war in Ukraine now in its second year, and the West renewing its arms supply with Hymars missile launchers, M270 long-range multiple-launch rocket systems, advanced NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, and Patriot air defense systems, and with tanks lately, fears of a dangerous Russian response have eased, the paper notes.
Biden has ruled out the possibility of sending F-16s to Ukraine, but Macron may still provide French fighters, the Daily Telegraph headlines.
Biden’s words yesterday were a major blow to Ukraine’s leaders, who had put jets at the top of their list of newest weapons. Meanwhile, however, Emmanuel Macron said that France does not rule out the possibility of sending fighter jets to Ukraine, thereby entering into a confrontation with Germany. He said “nothing is ruled out in principle” but only if certain conditions are met and there is no risk of “escalation”.
Hours earlier, Olaf Scholz warned of the risks of embarking on a race to arm Ukraine with powerful weapons. “I can only advise that we do not get into a constant competition to compete when it comes to weapons systems,” Scholz told the German daily Tagesspiegel.