Negotiations on whether to send F-16s and Patriots to Ukraine continue, but quietly

Negotiations on whether to send F-16s and Patriots to Ukraine continue, but quietly

Politico reports:

Ukraine has stopped publicly asking for high-end U.S. weapons such as Patriot air defense systems, F-16 fighter jets and Gray Eagle drones.

But behind the scenes, the push hasn’t stopped for weapons that could turn the tide of the war. Kyiv’s just getting savvier about its requests.

Both sides are discussing whether to send all three items as long-term financing deals are being hammered out, according to advisers to the Ukrainian government, Pentagon officials and defense industry executives.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hasn’t been a wallflower in calling out Western governments for the weapons his country needs to repel Russian invaders, and has demanded more artillery, rocket launchers and precision weapons, which the U.S. and Western allies eventually provided in large numbers this summer.

But there’s been a shift in recent weeks from loudly calling for air defense and fighter jets to quieter negotiations. The campaign to tone it down has been led by Zelenskyy’s advisers in Kyiv and key interlocutors in Washington, along with friendly advice from the Biden administration itself, which encouraged Kyiv to focus more intently on what it needs right now to push Russian forces out of entrenched positions in Ukraine’s east and south, the people said.

The change from a public campaign to a private one came as advisers grew concerned that the requests for high-end weapons were a distraction from Kyiv’s more immediate battlefield needs and concerns that the asks were muddling their tightly-scripted message.

For months after Russia’s full-scale invasion in late February, Ukrainian leaders asked for Patriot systems and other high-end technologies, putting them at the top of the wish lists sent to Washington and circulated in the press. But big-ticket items have been left off the latest requests for must-need weaponry, which have stuck to requesting more artillery shells and rockets for HIMARS rocket launchers.

Talks about eventually obtaining Patriots, F-16s and Gray Eagles at some point down the road continue at low levels, however, according to three industry sources and people who are in touch with the Kyiv government.

The concerns aren’t merely that the high-tech systems would be provocative to Moscow, but also that complex maintenance and support for the systems would challenge Ukraine in the middle of the war. [Continue reading…]

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