Ukraine Reacts to Being Given F-16s: This Isn’t Enough

Ukraine hailed a major development in the level of support it has received from NATO at the weekend as the donation of F-16s went from ‘one day’ to ‘this year’, but the nation has gone right from that news to urging for more nations to pledge their own stocks of jet fighters, too.

Denmark and the Netherlands both committed to give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets from their arsenals over the weekend, with Copenhagen saying they would send 19 planes and six of them this year, and Amsterdam promising aircraft without putting a specific number or timeline on deliveries. The Ukrainians in a typical burst of optimism announced they were to get the nation’s entire stock of aircraft, 42 airframes.

While these considerable allocations could boost Ukraine’s air force with more modern and effective warplanes by half —  a serious advantage to them as they seek to push back the Russian occupation — Ukraine’s apparent instinctive reflex remains to be doubling down on the latest acquisition and bidding for more. Advisor to President Zelensky’s Presidential Office Mykhailo Podolyak articulated this in a communication Tuesday morning when he praised the Netherlands and Denmark for illustrating their commitment to the country and international order, but also called on other nations to urgently give jets too.

Podolyak said: “The countries that are now transferring aviation equipment to Ukraine are openly demonstrating that they are deeply interested in protecting international law, democracy and justice. All of this is possible only if [Russia] is absolutely defeated. It is extremely important that Ukraine’s other coalition partners make similar decisions.”

The bid to deep the discussion going on F-16s from other NATO nations mirrors other procurement discussions with Ukraine, such as when the country first started to receive tanks and immediately moved to demand jets, submarines, long-range missiles, and even a warship. Other strategies have included publicly pre-emptively thanking nations for donations they had yet to receive, and even belittling partners for not giving enough and being “small minded”.

While this tenacious attitude is no doubt seen at home as being essential for the nation’s survival, it appears to have rubbed some allies up the wrong way. The United Kingdom, no doubt one of Ukraine’s most steadfast supporters who appear to have made remarks out of warning rather than exasperation, said Ukraine could stand to be more grateful to its sponsors worldwide.

The fallout from Ukraine’s reaction to the suggestion saw sarcastic remarks from President Zelensky and a senior ambassador recalled to Kyiv for appearing to have sympathy for the British position, which was seen as being a slight on the leadership of Zelensky. Gratitude rows blew up again weeks later when Poland also said Ukraine should show more gratitude for the enormous support they were being given, which Kyiv responded to by saying Poland was being “unacceptable”.

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