A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) official has poured cold water on the prospect of Ukraine receiving fighter jets from the West during its current counteroffensive.
“The discussion on the fighters is an important one, but it will not be solved in the short term for this counteroffensive,” Rob Bauer, a Dutch Navy officer and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, reportedly said Tuesday on the British radio station LBC, according to the Kyiv Independent.
“Training those pilots, training the technicians, making sure there is a logistic organization that can actually sustain these aircraft will not be available before this counteroffensive,” he added.
Bauer’s words come after numerous countries, including the United States, Denmark and the Netherlands, have become more open to the sending of fighter jets to Ukraine.
Just last week, Denmark began training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. The country’s acting defense minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, said June 26 that Copenhagen has “taken the step of starting a training and further education effort for the Ukrainian pilots.”
However, it has not completely confirmed the sending of any actual jets for the Ukrainian military’s use. For that to occur, Poulsen alluded to following the United States’ lead in facilitating such aircraft.
“I believe many are disappointed with such news,” retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jeffrey Fischer, who has advocated for the sending of F-16s for many months, told Newsweek via electronic communication. “I estimated an arrival of October for F-16s into Ukraine.
“There are strong indications that this effort is not moving as fast as it could have. The lack of airpower to support the counteroffensive will mean more casualties on the battlefield.”
The Biden administration was resoundingly hesitant in even entertaining the option of sending F-16s to Ukraine, even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top military officials made continuous impassioned pleas for them.
Last month, nearly 16 months after the war began, U.S. Army General Mark Milley said the U.S. and Kyiv were in preliminary discussions on the sending of the aircraft. However, while Milley said “everyone recognizes Ukraine needs a modernized air force,” he acknowledged that it would take “a considerable amount of time” for their arrival and use.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in May that he was “seriously considering” sending F-16s to Ukraine, instead opting in the short term to provide training of soldiers, according to Reuters.
Following the admission by U.S. defense officials that F-16s are now part of the discussion, Zelensky said Ukraine’s allies “know how many aircraft we need,” characterizing offers made by Western countries as “powerful.”
General Valery Zaluzhny, commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, recently told The Washington Post that his country’s counteroffensive is not going perhaps as strongly as anticipated due to the lack of air superiority—saying it “pisses me off.”
“This is not a show,” Zaluzhny told The Post, adding that his soldiers are gaining ground daily, even 500 meters in some instances. “It’s not a show the whole world is watching and betting on or anything. Every day, every meter is given by blood.”
Fischer said Zaluzhny’s concerns are valid.
“He’s right,” Fischer said. “It’s a bit self-righteous to complain about the slow pace while withholding the asset that could expedite it.”
Newsweek reached out to NATO, the Ukraine Defense Ministry, the Denmark Defense Ministry, the Dutch Defense Ministry, and the Pentagon for comment.
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