Why Is the West Unwilling to Send Planes to Ukraine?

The announcement of the shipment of tanks to Ukraine revived the debate on the relevance of sending planes to the war

German Leopard tank and another of an F-16

Photos: Boevaya mashina, Łukasz Golowanow & Maciek Hypś, Konflikty.pl

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué Occidente no está dispuesto a enviar aviones a Ucrania?

Joe Biden was definitive with his answer on whether he would send fighter jets to Ukraine, a resounding "no" echoed around the world. It is not the first time that the United States has refused to send planes to the front lines of the war. However, unlike previous occasions, the question to Biden was asked in the framework of the announcement of the shipment of German, American and British tanks. Why the refusal to send aircraft?

What Does Ukraine Need Tanks and Planes for?

Ukraine has stated from the beginning of the conflict that its main mission is the defense of its territory. That is, the war has been carried out entirely on Ukrainian soil and not on Russian. Western economic and military support has been focused on supporting this defensive posture. The goal is to drive Russia out of the territory of Ukraine. For the Russians progress has been slow after the resistance of their neighbors, the “advantage” in the war has been tilted to both sides at different times of the war. However, the greatest pressure is on Russia because of its role as a global power.

Despite Kiev's technical inferiority, Ukraine has managed to resist the Russian advance and has even at times recovered areas that were already under Russian rule, but greater military capacity is required to take definitive steps and not temporary advances. This is where technical and economic support from the West, specifically from NATO and its members, enters the equation. The United States, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Poland and Italy, among others, have provided Ukraine with arms, resources, logistical support and military training that, so far, have been beneficial but not definitive for the invaded country.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Ukraine has requested heavy weapons such as tanks and aircraft, but the United States and NATO have refused. Just a few days ago, Germany and the United States, mainly, agreed to send their Leopard and Abrams tanks, respectively, as a change in their previous position. However, the planes are still out of the question.

Resounding Negative to the Shipment of Airplanes: Why?

Poland tried in March last year to arrange to send its Soviet-era planes to Ukraine as an immediate response to the invasion. The Polish government considered that the adaptation of Ukrainian pilots to the technology of their aircraft could be faster when compared to Western aircraft. The idea of Poland was to transfer the planes to the United States and for this country to send them to Ukraine, in return the Poles asked that the fleet with US planes be restored to them. The reaction of the White House was negative, so everything remained a mere anecdote, but Kiev did not take its finger off the line and continued with its requests. With the dispatch of tanks, the question was once again asked of President Biden, who was once again emphatic with the NO.

The “official” response from the West has been that training Ukrainian pilots for their “sophisticated” aircraft would take too long. At least that was the position of London, who also joined the refusal, although France and the Netherlands did not close that possibility. Tanks are a good example. Although the shipment was announced at the end of January, it will take months to arrive and the Ukrainian military will still need to be trained, so its participation in the war is uncertain. The West fears that sending in aircraft could escalate the conflict and drag them into a war that could take on global proportions. If Ukraine uses the aircraft for more than defense, the line keeping the West out could quickly blur. No one in NATO wants to be the provocateur or pay the price for taking the war to another extreme, not even the United States.

You can also read: How Much Help Is The West Giving Ukraine?

Russia Seizes the Moment

Moscow is seizing the moment, with Ukraine limited to its outdated resources and the meager military resources it has been provided with. It is the perfect moment to take steps that could be definitive. Russia must repair its prestige as a military power that has been put in doubt by the effective resistance of Ukraine. While it is true that Putin has not used all the power, he has not shown obvious superiority over his neighbors either, which has dragged on the conflict longer than he surely expected.

The space Russia has between the announcement of the shipment and the arrival of the tanks and other weapons in Ukraine is the time to take advantage of the war. If we add to this the hesitation of the West to send planes, it could be the opportunity to speed up the end of the conflict. The Kiev government has considered air and weapons support essential for the success of its territorial defense, without this support Ukraine's strategy will undoubtedly be limited.

Show Stockpiles

Lastly, another of the West's fears is showing off its arsenal to Russia (Moscow must have the same fear). The war in Ukraine could be expected as a gateway to the latest in war technology. However, so far that has not happened. Israel, due to its position towards Iran (Russia's ally) has avoided direct aid to Kiev, since what Russia can learn from its weapons in Ukraine could be used against it in the Middle East by its enemies. Undoubtedly, Europe and the United States should consider this risk before providing any technology to Ukraine.

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