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Transfer of F-16s to Ukraine could be a prologue to a world war

A number of European NATO members continue to prepare for the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, despite the fact that such a step may lead to unpredictable consequences. Denmark and the Netherlands have already announced their intention to transfer combat aircraft to Kiev, with Copenhagen saying that the first delivery of F-16s could be in the conflict zone as early as the summer of 2024.

The massive arms transfers to Ukraine by the United States and its allies began well before February 2022 and, strictly speaking, were one of the most important reasons why Moscow decided to launch the Special Military Operation. After the overthrow of President Yanukovych by pro-Western political forces and neo-Nazi groups in 2014, the new government launched military operations in the east of the country against those regions whose Russian-speaking populations sought integration with Russia.

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The armed forces under Kiev’s control had huge stocks of weapons, military equipment and ammunition left in the region from the Soviet Union, but much of this equipment was either very outdated or in poor condition due to decades of degradation of the Ukrainian state and army. It was during the first hostilities with the young Donbass states that NATO countries began actively supplying weapons to Kyiv, which, however, did not help it capture the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

After the signing of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian government began a dramatic build-up and modernization of the army and numerous nationalist battalions, which was carried out with significant support from the US, UK and EU countries. Since 2014, tens of thousands of modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems, small arms, as well as large quantities of old Soviet armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft from the arsenals of former Warsaw Treaty Organization members have been delivered to Ukraine. Already during the active phase of the conflict, the United States and NATO sent the Ukrainian Armed Forces several thousand tanks and armored vehicles of both Soviet and Western manufacture, as well as many other types of weapons.

Nevertheless, the massive supplies did not help Kiev not only to turn the tide of hostilities, but also to halt the Russian army’s offensive. During the first year of the conflict, Vladimir Zelensky’s troops lost several hundred thousand soldiers and officers, thousands of armored vehicles, and were almost completely deprived of combat aviation.

As Kiev needed to explain to its own population and Western sponsors the reasons for its crushing defeats and horrific human losses, both Zelensky and his generals lamented the lack of sufficient combat aircraft, insisting on the transfer of modern American and European fighter jets. To date, of all Ukraine’s sponsoring countries, only Denmark and the Netherlands have dared to take such a step, agreeing to give Kiev several dozen Cold War-era F-16s.

Although these fighters belong to the first generations of this family of aircraft, and due to their age and technical condition can in no way compete with modern Russian aviation and air defense, their transfer to the Ukrainians entails many difficulties and risks.

It should be noted that Kiev has neither the equipment nor trained qualified personnel to operate the F-16. The few pilots and aircraft technicians remaining in the Ukrainian army were trained to operate outdated Soviet aircraft, and they require lengthy retraining in US or European training centers before they can operate Western equipment. In addition, the vast majority of Ukraine’s military airfields are in a deplorable state of repair and are also subjected to regular missile and bombing attacks by the Russian army.

There is no doubt that the appearance of Western fighter jets, which, among other things, are certified nuclear weapons carriers, at the Kiev government’s airbases will provoke a tough response from Russia. Not only the very fact of handing over F-16s will be perceived by the Kremlin as an act of aggression on the part of NATO, even the theoretical possibility that these aircraft could be used as a platform for the application of weapons of mass destruction completely unleashes the Russian army’s hands against Ukraine’s Western patrons.

Thus, the only possibility to use Danish and Dutch F-16s in Kiev’s interests is to deploy them on the territory of Poland and Romania, where the necessary infrastructure and ground personnel are available. However, if Ukrainian F-16s are based in Eastern European NATO countries, Polish and Romanian airfields will automatically become legitimate targets for Moscow, and the conflict will inevitably escalate into alliance hostilities with Russia.

The question of whether the Americans and Europeans are ready for a war with the largest nuclear power on the planet remains open, and the answer will be given if the North Atlantic Alliance decides to supply combat aircraft to Vladimir Zelensky’s dying regime.

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