Ukraine’s Defense Minister promotes Western fighters : NPR

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Liaison Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, January 20.

Michael Probst/AP

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Michael Probst/AP

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Liaison Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, 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 the US-made F-16 fighter jet. , and added that Ukrainian forces are ready to begin training on the newly committed advanced battle tanks “as soon as possible.”

“What is impossible today is entirely possible tomorrow,” he told NPR.

Speaking to NPR on Saturday, Reznikov said he hopes the Ukrainian military will begin training on Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks, which Germany and the US promised to give Ukraine last week. The UK has been training Ukrainians on its Challenger tanks and is sending Ukraine 14 of them.

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

He told NPR he was hoping for quick training, which he said was what was planned for the Patriot anti-aircraft missile the United States promised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in December. started training Ukrainians on them at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, this month.

“Normal training courses for Patriot include [of] 10 months,” he said, but the Ukrainian army will train with the US military for “probably 10 weeks.”

“For the Leopard tank, for example, [training] usually half a year. But I hope that we will do it in a month or maybe two months,” he added.

Reznikov said Ukraine also needs time to establish a supply chain for fuel and spare parts, and to train mechanics to maintain and repair new tanks. But he added that these new tanks will be a “game changer” as Ukraine tries to regain occupied territory, just as the HIMAR (High Mobility Artillery Missile System) helped the Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson in November.

Ukraine wants fighter jets

Reznikov is also promoting fighter jets, specifically the F-16, that have been on Ukraine’s roster since the start of the Russian invasion.

“I’m sure that’s completely true,” he said of the F-16, noting that in the past Ukraine has also possessed other weapons that at first seemed out of reach, including HIMARS and Patriot anti-aircraft missiles.

President biden seems to suggest on Monday that the United States will not donate F-16s to Ukraine and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Tagesspiegel The newspaper published Sunday that “the question of the fighter aircraft did not arise at all.”

In the past, most Western allies have refused requests for weapons, Reznikov said, for practical reasons, such as difficulty finding spare parts. When he asked his allies about the F-16, he said, they cited “a very long training period for [Ukrainian] pilots.” He said he could make a strong counter-argument by demonstrating that the Ukrainian military can conduct shorter, very intensive training courses on other types of weapons.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the West of playing a more direct role in the war by sending more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine. That causes tension within NATO and the European Union. Croatian President Zoran Milanovic told reporters that supplying Kiev with weapons would only prolong the war and that it was “crazy” to expect Russia’s defeat. And Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Ukraine’s Western supporters had “drifted into war.”

Corruption is still a concern

Reznikov says he knows Western allies are keeping a close eye on the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian journalists recently reported that Reznikov’s own ministry sometimes buys food and other supplies for the army at too high a price.

Before the Russian invasion, most of the defense department’s expenses were public. Now most are classified for security reasons. He said transparency was a delicate issue in wartime, but he was working with congress to change the law and make defense spending at least “semi-transparent”.

“It’s not a piece of cake, but I’ll do it,” he said. “Because my principle is zero tolerance for corruption. We must be a new Ukraine, with European standards, not the old Soviet-style Ukraine with a legacy of corruption.”


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