The US Is Finally Helping Ukraine’s Air Force

The Pentagon previously said it wouldn't provide this kind of aid to Ukraine.

The Pentagon is budging on its previous pledge to not help provide desperately needed aerial power to Ukraine’s air force.

In recent days, two senior Pentagon officials told media that an element of the international arms transfer efforts to Ukraine includes spare parts for the country’s damaged fighter planes. As a result, Ukraine was able to put 20 of its planes back in the skies while the Russian military has amassed a large force in Donbas in its pursuit of taking a chunk of the strategically vital east. 

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“I mean, they right now have more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Tuesday, explaining that the spare parts have come from “other nations” and not directly from the U.S. “And that's not by accident; that's because other nations who have experience with those kinds of aircraft have been able to help them get—get more aircraft up—up and running.”

Where the new aircraft parts are coming from is a mystery. The Pentagon only confirmed they came from Europe, while the Polish Ministry of Defense, the closest ally to Ukraine and with similar Soviet-era aircraft in its arsenal, would not respond to VICE News’ requests on whether it was sending Kyiv new aircraft parts. 

Since the war began, the Biden administration has walked a diplomatic tightrope, mostly limiting its weapons supplies to Ukraine to small arms in an attempt not to trigger the Kremlin into escalatory actions against a nearby NATO nation. Though it has already sent billions of dollars’ worth of security assistance—like the decisive Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft systems Ukraine has used to devastating effect against Russian forces—only recently has the U.S. begun heavy-weapons transfers, including howitzer artillery systems (and trainers for them), helicopters, and 121 “tactical” drones capable of deploying munitions.

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The war so far has seen numerous atrocities and relentless assaults from the Russian military, which has been accused of war crimes and even crimes against humanity. In lockstep with those revelations, the Biden administration has escalated its military assistance of Ukraine, providing weapons that were previously seen as unthinkable aid to the embattled nation.

In March, to the dismay of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Poland was willing to send Soviet-era MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine only for the Pentagon to to refuse to help transfer the planes as the U.S. feared a nuclear-armed Vladimir Putin could see it as a direct action against Russia. Zelenskyy has again and again demanded for Western powers to provide fighter planes to Ukraine in order to “close the skies” (a reference to a NATO no-fly zone), only for those requests to be denied. 

Putin, on the other hand, has repeatedly given veiled threats to NATO countries that if they supply Ukraine with weapons, they’re not only an enemy but also could face Russia’s nuclear wrath. Yesterday, in a strategically timed test of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile—that Russia did notify the Pentagon it was doing—Putin remarked that enemies of his nation should remember their capabilities.

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia's security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country,” Putin said in a video released to state media yesterday.

The latest disclosure of aircraft part supplies comes as the battle for the Donbas began in the east of Ukraine days ago. Low-flying Russian Su-34 fighter jets have been filmed there already, as the Kremlin has amassed dozens upon dozens of battalions in its strategic pivot from trying to take Kyiv to securing the Donbas. Ukraine has mounted a counteroffensive and the use of fighter aircraft to intercept or engage Russian planes could prove crucial to the outcome of the key battle.

Tagged:

Ukraine, Pentagon, ukraine invasion, worldnews, world conflict

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