How ‘Historic’ Is Biden’s Decision about F-16s?

Ukrainian pilots are to be trained to use American fighter jets. The Ukrainian president is happy. But does his country perhaps need other weapons more urgently?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visits to Saudi Arabia and Japan clearly did not fit the worldview of some politicians. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for example, seemed uncomfortable with the prospect of having to listen to the Ukrainian perspective on Russia’s aggression. Lula, the wannabe mediator, apparently felt sufficiently informed about the issue based on what Moscow had told him.

Even at the Arab League Summit, one leader or another probably gulped when Zelenskyy found clear language to talk about their stance to date.

Scholz: A Signal to Russia

In contrast, Zelenskyy had it easy at a meeting with representatives from his core group of supporters. President Joe Biden even took the opportunity to send a message that Zelenskyy called “historic.” It remains to be seen whether American readiness to train Ukrainian pilots to use F-16 fighter jets deserves this designation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz may not actually be entirely wrong in thinking that this measure is, above all, a signal to Russia that Western aid to Ukraine will not abate. Of course, Scholz can speak relatively easily on the subject because no one has asked Germany directly about this weapon system, unlike the discussion about tanks.

The symbolic value of training pilots is obvious. Less clear is what strategic value delivery of those jets has for Ukraine. Does Ukraine perhaps need other weapons systems more urgently than the F-16s? Experience in the war against Ukraine to date has shown that jets are among the most vulnerable components of militaries today. In this respect, the “historic” decision may be worth more morally than militarily.

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