In response to rumors that the United States may finally deliver Ukraine with the F-16 fighter jets it has been demanding for the past year, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that France has not ruled out sending fighter jets to Kyiv.
The report comes as Western governments are expressing increased openness to the notion of sending bombers, advanced weapons, and tanks to Ukraine after nearly a year of anxiety over the developing crisis.
France has already sent Ukraine rocket launchers, air defense systems, and other pieces of advanced weaponry, but the French government – in line with all of Ukraine’s other Western allies – has refrained from sending fighter jets.
Even though the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Poland agreed to send main battle tanks to Ukraine, France has not decided to do the same.
Why France could send fighters to Ukraine
President Macron made the remarks at a press conference held on Monday in The Hague. While French President Emmanuel Macron has stated his willingness to send fighter jets, he has also outlined many requirements that must be completed before the deployment of such aircraft.
Specifically, Macron stated that France would first have to be sure that the shipment of the planes would not be used to “touch Russian soil,” indicating that France – like any other ally helping Ukraine – wants to make sure that French weapons will not be used to launch attacks on Russian soil.
It would amount to an attack by Ukraine, but using French weapons may make France a target for Russia.
Also, Macron said he needs to know that sending warplanes won’t “weaken the capabilities of the French military,” so it sounds like studies are underway to assess that possibility.
“No requests yet” for the F-16
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands addressed reports that Ukraine was trying to purchase F-16s during the same press conference, stating categorically that no such request had been made.
Nothing has been discussed regarding the possible transfer of F-16s to Ukraine.
There are no petitions,” Rutte said, adding that there would be “no taboo” on submitting them, although it would be a “very big next step.” “It is very important that we continue to support Ukraine and that Ukraine explain to us what it needs,” Rutte said.
The comments seem to suggest that the Netherlands is willing to send the planes, but Ukraine must make a formal request first. The comments could also have been made strategically to encourage the United States to take the first step, in the same way, that the German government did not agree to send German-made tanks to Ukraine until the United States approved the decision.
Rutte also praised Germany’s decision to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks and said his country was willing to buy more main battle tanks – which the Dutch army currently rents – and send them to Ukraine as well.