US won't rule out sending jets to Ukraine

Britain earlier said it would begin training Ukrainian pilots

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on February 8. AFP
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The US government continues to resist calls to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken stopped short on Wednesday of ruling out such assistance later.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier said Britain would train Ukrainian pilots to fly western fighter jets, and would explore the possibility of providing such aircraft.

“At every step along the way, as needs have evolved, so too has what we have provided Ukraine," Mr Blinken said when asked about sending planes.

“And that most recently took place with the decision to provide the Abrams tanks, and of course Germany providing the Leopard tanks and other Europeans doing the same."

The US has so far spurned Ukrainian pleas for fighter jets, which officials consider to be too provocative a move.

Standing alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the State Department, Mr Blinken said that US and foreign security assistance to Ukraine continues to evolve to meet the changing nature of the conflict.

Earlier, The National asked White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby whether the UK's announcement on possibly sending planes would influence the US position.

"These are sovereign decisions that nations make and we respect that," Mr Kirby said.

"We certainly have not been twisting arms one way or the other. But we have been actively talking to allies and partners about what kinds of capabilities they can provide and under what circumstances.”

The Biden administration long held out against Ukraine’s requests for the Abrams tank, saying challenges ranged from fuel and logistics to training requirements for Ukrainian soldiers.

Ultimately, though, the US agreed to send the coveted vehicle to pave the way for larger numbers of German-made Leopard tanks.

“This is an evolving process and we will continue to make judgments about what we think Ukraine needs and what we think it can be most effective in using," Mr Blinken said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report

Updated: February 09, 2023, 12:24 AM