Nach diesem Wochenende und dem G7-Gipfeltreffen in Japan ist klar, dass die Ukraine in absehbarer Zeit mit der Lieferung westlicher Kampfjets rechnen kann. US-Präsident Joe Biden erklärte beim Treffen mit den Staats- und Regierungschefs anderer großer Wirtschaftsnationen in Hiroshima seine Abkehr von der bisherigen Haltung, in den USA gebaute F-16-Kampfflugzeuge nicht an die Ukraine zu liefern – auch wenn die voraussichtlich aus anderen NATO-Staaten kommen. Ein Überblick:
Die erste öffentliche Bestätigung der neuen US-Haltung gab es am (gestrigen) Samstagmorgen (japanischer Zeit) beim Briefing von US-Sicherheitsberater Jake Sullivan am Rande des G7-Treffens:
Just yesterday, as you all know, President Biden informed his G7 counterparts that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s.
Over the past few months, we and our allies and partners have really focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapon, and training that it needs to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring and summer. We have delivered what we promised. We have given Ukraine what it needs based on close consultations between our military and theirs. And now we have turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian air force as part of our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense.
So, as the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them, and how many.
Die grundsätzliche Zusage wurde offensichtlich durch das Versprechen der Ukraine ermöglicht, die Kampfjets nicht gegen Ziele in Russland einzusetzen, sondern nur gegen russische Streitkräfte in den besetzten Teilen der Ukraine (was aus Sicht der Regierung in Kiew die Krim einschließt). So äußerte sich Biden bei der gemeinsamen Pressekonferenz mit dem ukrainischen Präsident Wolodymyr Selenskyj in Hiroshima entsprechend, wie die New York Times berichtet:
Later, at the news conference, Mr. Biden said he had secured a promise by Mr. Zelensky not to use the jets to strike targets in Russia.
“I have a flat assurance from Zelensky that they will not, they will not use it to go on, to move into Russian geographic territory,” Mr. Biden said. “But wherever Russian troops are in Ukraine, in the area, they would be able to do that.”
Nachtrag: Die Aussagen Bidens im Wortlaut, aus dem Transkript des Weißen Hauses:
You know, in my private meeting with President Zelenskyy after the G7 meeting and his with staff, I told — the United States, together with our allies and partners, is going to begin training Ukrainian pilots in fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, to strengthen Ukraine’s air force as part of a long-term commitment to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.
We provided, the last year, all that they needed to deal with what they were dealing with at the moment, and that’s what — and now we’re moving in the direction of putting them in a position to be able to be — defend themselves in ways beyond what they’ve had to deal with so far.
Interessanter Aspekt am Rande, der bislang selten wahrgenommen wird: Die USA reden nicht nur von F-16, sondern eher generisch von Kampfjets der vierten Generation, darunter F-16. Das führt zu der – bislang offenen – Frage, ob andere Flugzeugtypen aus dem Westen zur Debatte stehen könnten; bislang schien das nicht so.
Biden antwortete auch ausführlich auf die Frage nach einer bevorstehenden ukrainischen Offensive und der Rolle der F-16:
But the fact is that we did discuss privately with — with Zelen- — I did discuss with Zelenskyy how — let me put it this way: We and our NATO Allies know how many brigades they have trained, know what the status of those brigades are, and have an expectation as to what their likelihood of succeeding are.
We don’t know that for certain. War is uncertain. War is uncertain, to state the obvious. So, and my — it will proceed. I can’t — if — even if I — I think I do know, but I’m not going to tell you because that would not be a smart thing to do either.
So, having said that, the expectation and hope is that they will be successful in that it’ll make it clear to Russia that the cost — for example, Bakhmut: Bakhmut is a discussion about whether or not it’s been lost or whatever. And, well, the truth of the matter is the Russians have suffered over 100,000 casualties in Bakhmut. That’s hard to make up. That’s hard to make up.
So, whether or not there is — there are troops in Bakhmut occupying — there’s not many buildings left standing in Bakhmut. It’s a pretty devastated city. But they have been able to move in a direction that they’ve been able to lock down an awful lot of the Russian forces, including the Wagner Group.
So, with regard to the F-16s, F-16s would not have helped in that regard at all. It was unnecessary. For example — let’s take just Bakhmut, for example — would not have any — any additional added consequence.
But what’s happened is: Since the provi- — the provision of everything from the significant missile defense systems, tanks, sophisticated tanks and the like — all the things that were of consequence in the near term in the Donbas area and where the fighting was taking place — they now have all that equipment. There’s a little bit still coming, but they have all that equipment.
What’s going to happen, though, is if they continue to do well, they’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have the Russians being able to stand off at a greater distance for maintaining their headquarters and other things, which are out of range of certain — of the existing capacity they have. And they have to be able to be in a position where now those fighter jets, those F-16s, make a big difference in terms of being able to deal with what is coming down the road.
And God willing — and we don’t know this — if they’re successful and there ends up being an accommodation where there is not a ceasefire but there is a peace agreement that gets worked out, that they’ll have the capacity to have confidence in their ability to resist response by the Russians if they were to change their position.
So that’s the essence of the difference. Was there another part of the question?
Q No, but I have one. And that is: You do expect these F-16s to take part in this conflict?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Not the per- — I don’t expect the F-16s to take part in the existing — let’s assume that it’s not, but let’s assume tomorrow the offensive was starting — or in a week, or two, or five, or seven, or ten. It’s not — highly unlikely they would take place in that context.
But it will take place in the context — if they’re successful in the near term, they’re going to then continue to have to fight with the Russians, who have — have headquarters beyond where they are now a- — not able to be reached by the existing capacity that exists in their arsenal. So it’s a different need, just like the tanks weren’t needed in the beginning, but they’re needed now. And so, that’s — that’s the nature of the change.
Q Mr. President, what assurances — what assurances do you — what assurances do you have that providing F-16s won’t escalate this war?
THE PRESIDENT: I have a flat assurance from the — from Zelenskyy that they will not — they will not use it to go on and move into Russian geographic territory. But wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine in the area, they would be able to do that.
Thank you all very, very much. Appreciate it.
Q How do you respond to the Kremlin calling this a “colossal risk,” Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: It is for them.
Auch wenn mehrere europäische Länder wie Frankreich und Großbritannien (beide ohne F-16 in ihren Streitkräften) oder die Niederlande bereits zuvor angeboten hatten, Piloten auszubilden: Bis zu einer tatsächlichen Lieferung und dann auch Einsätzen westlicher Kampfjets dürften mindestens einige Monate vergehen. Allerdings hatte es vor dem G7-Treffen auch einen Bericht gegeben, erste Testläufe der U.S. Air Force mit ukrainischen Piloten deuteten auf deutlich kürzere Ausbildungszeiten hin als angenommen:
Yahoo News has exclusively obtained an internal U.S. Air Force assessment that concludes it would take only four months to train Ukrainian pilots to operate American-made F-16 fighter jets, a far shorter time frame than what has been repeatedly cited by Pentagon officials.
The document, which was shared with a number of NATO allies who fly F-16s, contains a detailed assessment undertaken in late February and early March at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Ariz., home to the 162nd Wing of the U.S. Air Force. Two Ukrainian airmen, one qualified on the MiG-29, the other on the Su-27, were given “no formal training” on the F-16, according to the assessment, other than a brief familiarization.
Kurzfristige Auswirkungen auf das Kriegsgeschehen wird die aktuelle Entscheidung vermutlich nicht haben. Neben der langfristigen Unterstützung der Ukraine, die damit vom westlichen Staatenbündnis noch einmal bekräftigt wird, dient die Ankündigung aber auch einem wichtigen anderen Zweck: Die Einbindung des Landes in den Westen als dauerhaftes Ziel der ukrainischen Bevölkerung deutlich zu machen und damit die Kampfmoral zu stärken.
(Archivbild: Four F-16 Fighting Falcons sit on the airfield at the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio, Jan. 26, 2023 – U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Battani)