Russia-Ukraine war 2.0: First Tanks, Then F16s… Where Does this End?
A permanent partition of Ukraine into two opposed blocs – one more pro-Russian, the other more pro-Nato- is looking ever more likely.
Kyiv is keen to break what western media have termed a “taboo” by getting Nato aircraft directly involved in the Ukraine war. There is a good reason for that taboo: the use of such jets would let Ukraine expand the battlefield into Russian skies, and implicate Europe and the US in its offensive.
But why assume the West’s taboo on supplying combat jets is really any stronger than its former taboo on sending Nato battle tanks to Ukraine? As one European official observed in a Politico article: “Fighters are completely unconceivable today, but we might have this discussion in two, three weeks.”
And sure enough, within days, Zelensky’s office said there had been “positive signals” from Poland about supplying Ukraine with F16s. French President Emmanuel Macron also refused to rule out the possibility of contributing combat jets.
Upping the stakes
There is a logic to how Nato is operating. Step by step, it gets more deeply immersed in the war. It started with sanctions, followed by the supply of defensive arms. Nato then moved to issuing more offensive weapons, in aid so far totalling some $100bn from the US alone. Nato is now supplying the main weapons for a land war. Why should it not join the battle for air supremacy next?
Or as Nato’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, recently observed, echoing George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984: “Weapons are the way to peace.”
But the reverse is more likely to be true. With each additional step they take, the more the parties involved risk losing if they back down. The longer they refuse to sit and talk, the greater the pressure to keep fighting.
That no longer applies just to Russia and Ukraine. Now, Europe and Washington also have plenty of skin directly in the game.
Late last month, in what sounded like a Freudian slip, Germany’s foreign minister, Anna Baerbock, stated at a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg: “We are fighting a war against Russia.” Days earlier, Ukraine’s defence minister made much the same point: “We [Ukraine] are carrying out Nato’s mission today, without the loss of their blood.”