France open to sending fighter jets to Ukraine

France has signalled openness to sending fighter jets to Ukraine as western international locations weigh the subsequent steps in navy help to assist Kyiv resist Russian assaults.

“By definition, nothing is excluded,” President Emmanuel Macron mentioned at a press convention in The Hague on Monday, including that he had not obtained a request for jets from Ukraine.

For the reason that US and Germany introduced final week their determination to ship main battle tanks to Kyiv — one thing France has not but accomplished — Ukraine’s backers have turned their consideration to the opportunity of supplying US-made F-16 or different western fighter jets. Ukrainian officers have mentioned extra superior plane would assist bolster air defences, repel Russian assaults and assist put together for a renewed offensive within the spring.

US president Joe Biden on Monday evening ruled out sending F-16s to Ukraine, which appeared to dent Kyiv’s hopes that its largest backer would lead the motion on the jets. Germany has taken the same stance, however some extra hawkish European international locations reminiscent of Poland are in favour of sending fight plane below sure situations.

Paris has knowledgeable different European capitals that the opportunity of sending extra weapons methods, together with jets, is on the desk, in accordance with two officers briefed on the discussions, however a call is unlikely to be made within the rapid future.

The precedence stays to supply air and missile defence methods, they mentioned, and the brand new push to supply tanks and practice Ukrainian crews to make use of them.

Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov met Macron and his French counterpart in Paris on Tuesday and mentioned they mentioned jets, however no “particular names or sorts of planes”.

Reznikov downplayed Biden’s assertion, noting that because it was the case with howitzers and tanks, allies would finally come round: “For each request we make — the reply isn’t any at the start… I’m certain that finally we could have an actual trendy jet platform.”

On Monday evening, Macron as soon as once more laid out the standards France makes use of when contemplating requests for navy gear from Ukraine: will or not it’s helpful and sensible for the Ukrainian military to make use of? Does it pose the danger of escalation? Will supplying the navy {hardware} weaken French navy capabilities?

“We make these choices based mostly on the requests Ukraine makes, not the rumours going round . . . each time we get a request we take into account it,” Macron mentioned on the press convention following a gathering with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

Based mostly on such standards, France has up to now determined to not ship its Leclerc principal battle tanks to Kyiv, though Macron has not dominated it out and has agreed to send lighter armoured personnel carriers often known as the AMX-10. Ukraine was keener to amass German-built Leopard 2 tanks.

Kyiv can be in negotiations with the French and Italian governments to acquire the superior medium-range air defence system SAMP/T, just like the US Patriot battery, which might shoot down ballistic missiles.

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron in The Hague: ‘We make . . . choices based mostly on the requests Ukraine makes, not the rumours going round’ © Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg

Defence analysts anticipate that France would ship an older mannequin of its Mirage jets to Ukraine if Macron opted to provide fight plane. Manufactured by Dassault Aviation, France had 106 Mirage 2000s in service at the start of final yr, all of which might be changed by fifth-generation Rafale jets by 2030.

France retired 14 Mirage 2000C jets in June, so giving them to Ukraine wouldn’t degrade French navy capabilities, and it’ll section out an extra 26 Mirage 2000-5 interceptors over the subsequent few years.

Provided that France makes its personal jets, there could be no want for third-party approval to export them. A number of European armed forces function F-16s however would require US authorisation to ship them to Ukraine. That made French jets a extra apparent candidate, one of many European officers mentioned.

The UK authorities mentioned it was “listening very rigorously” to requests for extra navy tools for Ukraine.

However a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak mentioned Britain didn’t imagine it was “sensible” to ship fighter jets — reminiscent of Hurricane and F-35s — to Kyiv.

“The UK’s fighter jets are extraordinarily refined and take months to learn to fly. Provided that, we imagine it’s not sensible to ship these jets into Ukraine,” he mentioned. “We’ll proceed to debate with our allies what’s the proper method.”

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