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NATO Will Eventually Send Fighter Jets to Ukraine—Ambassador Predicts

NATO countries will eventually provide Ukraine with the most powerful conventional weapons to repel Russian troops, according to Kiev’s ambassador to the alliance.

Natalya Galibarenko told News Week Discussions continue with NATO members about longer-range weapons, warplanes and main battle tanks.

It was a particular disappointment for Kyiv that NATO countries did not send jets or main battle tanks for fear of provoking Russia. But Galibarenko is optimistic.

“Unfortunately, we are not there yet,” said Galibarenko about the fighters and tanks. The Allies know that we are very interested in acquiring aircraft and tanks, but there was no firm decision.”

“Looking at this seven-month war, I would say we will be there at some point,” the ambassador said.

This file photo shows Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko, head of the NATO mission to Ukraine, pictured on February 11, 2022, in Brussels, Belgium.
Ukraine’s NATO Mission

He said Vladimir Putin’s orders for continued missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian cities helped Kiev make the argument for more aid.

The United States, Spain and Germany have recently committed to supplying additional anti-aircraft defense or accelerating planned deliveries of such systems, encouraging Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov to praise “a new era of air defense.”

“We have all witnessed a change of attitude towards the procurement of air defense systems,” Galibarenko said on Friday about the impact of Russia’s dams, which resumed on Monday last week. said.

Portuguese F-16 Oeiras flies in NATO airspace
This file photo shows a Portuguese Air Force F-16 over Santo Amaro Beach during the Oeiras Valley Air Show on October 16, 2022, in Oeiras, Portugal. The F-16 is a NATO-operated platform launched for possible use by Ukrainian pilots.
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Galibarenko noted that Ukraine is looking at more advanced offensive and hybrid weapons systems to help quell ongoing counterattacks in the east and south, which Ukraine says liberated more than 600 settlements in a month.

“I remember when HIMARS was taboo, different artillery systems like howitzers were taboo. Everyone was telling us, ‘No, they will never surrender because then NATO would really go to war with the Russian Federation,'” he said.

“But now we get these weapon systems from different countries. Sometimes it takes time for us and our allies to come to a common decision.”

Galibarenko said that the recent change in Western mentality is palpable.

Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian cities “changed the ideas and attitudes of the Allies in favor of Ukraine,” he said. “Putin sometimes shoots himself in the foot… and gets an immediate and very strong reaction.”

Ukrainian leaders framed the Russian tension, which Putin claimed in retaliation for the attack that damaged the Crimean Bridge, as a sign of the Kremlin’s desperation as Russian troops withdraw from key areas in eastern and southern Ukraine.

“I agree that he is helpless,” Galibarenko said. “It cannot even define the borders of the regions it considers to have legally annexed and integrated into the Russian Federation,” he said, referring to the four partially occupied territories Moscow claims to have annexed following fake referendums.

“In despair,” the ambassador added.

Putin’s mobilization orders, annexations and long-range strikes have so far failed to stop Ukraine’s continued counterattack.

And Kyiv plans to continue their progress through the harsh winter. “Our plan is not to freeze, that’s exactly what the Russians are looking for,” said Galibarenko.

“They need this break to reshuffle, renew their logistics and supplies, and also train these new reservists who will come to their forces on Ukrainian soil,” he said.

“Our idea, at least for now, is to keep the pace we have.” He said NATO has helped winter conditions such as cold weather uniforms, shelters, heaters and diesel generators.

Galibarenko said that discussions about helping to repair damaged Ukrainian equipment and training soldiers in NATO countries continue.

“Everything we’ve got now, we need more, and also more ammunition for the systems we have,” the ambassador said. Said.

Putin’s Nuclear Threats

Putin and his top officials regularly expose Russia’s enormous nuclear arsenal.

While Western leaders have long warned they would not directly risk a NATO-Russia nuclear confrontation, French President Emmanuel Macron insisted last week that Paris would not respond in the same way to a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine.

Galibarenko argued that Putin’s nuclear blackmail was less effective inside Ukraine than abroad. “Ukrainians are currently at this stage of their psyche, their mood, they are not even afraid to face a nuclear attack,” he said.

“We are continuing the dialogue with NATO and also with our American friends, and we are making sure that the Russian leader is already aware that this will be a strong response,” the ambassador said. said.

“We must all be prepared for this, be careful and keep something secret about the answer,” Galibarenko said. Said. “This will reduce the risk of nuclear attack.”

Will Ukraine Join NATO?

Ukraine’s constitutionally protected NATO ambitions have survived almost eight months of war. Kyiv has repeatedly rejected calls from abroad to declare neutrality in exchange for peace, especially since Ukraine’s neutral status in 2014 did not prevent a Russian invasion at the time.

Last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an “accelerated” path to full alliance membership in response to Russia’s annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory.

“We will not negotiate our neutrality with Russia,” Galibarenko said. “We will go to NATO. We understand that this will not happen tomorrow, we are not naive. We try to assess the situation realistically, but I think all the cards are on the table now.”

“Some in NATO were happy, some were not so happy,” he said of Zelensky’s latest call to Brussels. “Building consensus among 30 member states has never been an easy task and we understand that.”

He explained that Zelensky’s decision was primarily for Ukraine’s overwhelmingly pro-NATO population. “We weren’t just doing this for the West,” he said.

“The initial audience was Ukrainians, because 76 percent of Ukrainians support Ukraine joining NATO. People were asking for clarity; what is our goal? The president responded very clearly.”

While Galibarenko says there’s “no official barrier saying we can’t join because of territorial disputes,” membership looks highly unlikely until the eight-year war with Russia is over.

Meanwhile, Kyiv is seeking bilateral agreements to improve its security, as outlined in the latest Kyiv Security Convention. Although he declined to name any names, Galibarenko said talks with potential security guarantors are already underway.

“I think it’s pretty realistic that deals can be reached,” he said. It’s too early to predict what the outcome will be, but it’s wise to do something before NATO membership.”

German Leopard tank in Ukraine in February 2022
The new Leopard 2 A7V heavy battle tank of the 9th Panzer Training Brigade of the Bundeswehr was spotted on 7 February 2022 in Munster, Germany. Leopard tanks are among those proposed to be donated to Ukraine.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images