Ukraine’s defense minister pushes for Western fighter jets : NPR

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Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends the Defense Contact Group of Ukraine meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, on January 20.

Michael Probst/AP

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Michael Probst/AP

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends the Defense Contact Group of Ukraine meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, on January 20.

Michael Probst/AP

KYIV — Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says he is optimistic that Western allies will eventually supply his country with advanced fighter jets, including US-made F-16 fighter jets , adding that Ukrainian forces are ready to begin training on newly commissioned advanced battle tanks “as soon as possible.”

“What’s impossible today is absolutely possible tomorrow,” he tells NPR.

Speaking to NPR on Saturday, Reznikov said he hoped Ukrainian troops would begin training on the Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks, which Germany and the United States promised last week to provide. donation to Ukraine. The UK is already training Ukrainians on its Challenger tanks, and is sending them to Ukraine 14 of them.

“My understanding is that there are training courses we can do in Europe,” says Reznikov. “It’s more convenient because we have to use a similar landscape and we have to have similar weather conditions.”

He tells NPR he’s hoping for accelerated training, which he says is what’s planned for the Patriot air defense missiles the United States promised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in December. The United States he started Ukrainians training on them at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, this month.

“Normal training courses for a Patriot consist of [of] 10 months,” he says, but Ukrainian troops will train with the military in the United States for “probably 10 weeks.”

“For Leopard tanks, for example, [training] usually it can be half a year. But I hope we will do it during a month or probably two months,” he adds.

Reznikov says Ukraine also needs time to set up supply chains for fuel and spare parts and also train mechanics to maintain and repair the new tanks. But he adds that these new tanks will be a “game-changing game” as Ukraine tries to recover occupied territory, as the HIMARs (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) helped Ukrainian forces recover the southern city of Kherson in November.

Ukraine wants fighter jets

Reznikov is also pushing for fighter jets, specifically F-16, which have been on Ukraine’s list since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

“I’m sure this is absolutely realistic,” he says of the F-16, noting that in the past, Ukraine has also acquired other weapons that at first seemed out of reach, including HIMARS and Patriot air defense missiles. air

President Biden he seemed to suggest on Monday that the US would not give F-16s to Ukraine, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the Tagesspiegel newspaper published Sunday that “the issue of combat aircraft does not arise at all.”

Reznikov says that in the past, many Western allies have turned down requests for weapons for practical reasons, such as difficulty finding spare parts. He says when he asks allies about the F-16, they cite “a very long training period for [Ukrainian] pilots.” He says he can offer a strong counterargument by proving that Ukrainian troops can do much shorter and more intensive training on other weapons.

Russia, meanwhile, he accused the West of taking a more direct role in the war by sending more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine. This caused tension in NATO and the European Union. The President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic he told reporters that supplying arms to Kiev will only prolong the war and that it is “madness” to expect Russia’s defeat. And the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban said that those who support the West of Ukraine it was a “drive in the war.”

Corruption remains a concern

Reznikov says he knows Western allies are closely scrutinizing the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian journalists recently reported that Reznikov’s own ministry was sometimes buying food and other supplies for the troops at inflated prices.

Before the Russian invasion, most defense ministry expenses were public. Now most are classified for security reasons. He says transparency is a tricky issue in wartime, but is working with parliament to change laws and make defense spending at least “semi transparent.”

“It’s not a piece of cake, but I’m going to do it,” he says. “Because my principle is zero tolerance with corruption. We want to be a new Ukraine, with the European standard, not the outdated Soviet Ukraine with a legacy of corruption.”

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