The Western countries are in internal discussions about the possibility of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine, but many fear that such a decision could lead to an escalation of the conflict. As the newspaper Politico said on Thursday, according to a number of Western diplomats and representatives of military circles, Ukraine and the Baltic countries are in favor of this idea.
“The next natural step would be fighters,” a diplomat from a northern European country said.
For its part Washington has told Kiev that supplying aircraft is a “no-go, for the moment,” the diplomat quoted above said, but added: “There’s a red line there – but last summer we had a red line on the HIMARS [multiple rocket launchers], and that moved. Then it was battle tanks, and that’s moving.”
A second diplomatic source from a European power told Politico that “fighters are completely unconceivable today,” but there might be a discussion “in two or three weeks.”
The newspaper says the debate will likely prove even more contentious than the row over supplying tanks. At the same time, in Europe, multiple officials and diplomats said their governments no longer consider the idea a non-starter, but “fears of escalation remain high.”
Some officials believe that next month’s discussion at Ramstein will be more focused on thrashing out “a contingency plan, in case jet fighters are urgently needed at some future point, rather than on striking a deal on near-term deliveries.”
European diplomats agree that the West will first want to exhaust all other options for air support, including more attack drones and possibly long-range missiles, Politico says. Besides, sending aircraft would be a serious logistical undertaking for Ukraine’s allies, the newspaper notes.