Ukraine will need ‘fighter jets’ after tanks, former president says

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While Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will “improve the situation”, what Kyiv really needs are fighter jets, Ukraine’s former president told Euronews.

“The real game changer now is the jet fighter. We should immediately launch training programmes for Ukrainian pilots and prepare to deliver them to Ukraine,” said Petro Poroshenko.

NATO countries have spent months debating whether to send modern battle tanks to Ukraine because of concerns it could be seen as an escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to do so on Wednesday and invited other countries to send theirs too. The US also announced plans to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

However, a missing element for offensive and defensive operations is still air power. 

Ukraine has been asking the West to provide modern fighter jets to protect Ukrainian skies from Russia since the beginning of the war. However, so far, none have been delivered.

“We also need attack helicopters and long-range missiles to reach logistic bases and Russian commanding centres. We should receive these now before Russia attempts its great spring offensive,” Poroshenko said.

“In the beginning, Western powers said they will help Ukraine ‘survive’. Not anymore, now, we should win. But to achieve this, we need to strengthen Ukrainian armed forces,” he added.

Ukraine should receive ‘full NATO membership’

Even though survival and winning the war today remain a top priority for Ukraine, joining NATO remains essential as it would enable a “sustainable security situation in Europe,” Poroshenko told Euronews.

“It would be impossible to have a sustainable security situation without Ukraine’s full membership to NATO. If Ukraine had become a NATO member in 2008, the war would probably not be taking place right now,” he added.

Ukraine’s leadership has argued that for all intents and purposes, Kyiv is already a member of NATO and therefore deserves a quick path to membership.

“Every single citizen of NATO and the European Union is not only being protected by Article 5 of NATO at the moment but they’re being protected by Ukraine’s yellow and blue armed forces,” said Poroshenko, who served as president from 2014 to 2019.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (centre) holds an application for ”accelerated accession to NATO” in Kyiv, Ukraine, September 2022.Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

‘Please don’t allow the corruption scandal to undermine trust between Ukraine and Europe’

In the wake of a scandal about illicit payments and over-inflated military contracts among Ukrainian officials, Poroshenko said the government is “taking several systemic steps to fight corruption”.

Several senior Ukrainian officials were dismissed on Tuesday as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy launched a broad anti-corruption drive across his government.

“We need to continue reforms against corruption because war is not a reason to stop the reform”, Poroshenko said.

“And we need to take decisive action to maintain trust between Ukraine and our partners. Please don’t allow the corruption scandal to undermine trust between Ukraine and Europe,” he added.

Ukraine is no stranger to corruption. In 2021, the country was ranked 122 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s ranking of corrupt states.

A crackdown is one of the EU’s key demands if Kyiv is to advance in its application to join the bloc.

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