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Eugene Czolij: NATO member states must provide Ukraine with fighter jets without further delay

March 12, 2022 10:41 PM 3 min read
Сivilians cross the river near the blown-up bridge in Irpin, not far from Kyiv fleeing from Irpin as it is constantly shelled by attacking Russian forces on March 7, 2022. (Volodymyr Petrov)
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On 14-16 September 2005, over 170 heads of state and government met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the 2005 World Summit, later described as the “largest gathering of world leaders in history,” and adopted the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

The UN website states:

In paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1) Heads of State and Government affirmed their responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and accepted a collective responsibility to encourage and help each other uphold this commitment.”

Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations enables UN member states to collectively fulfill this historic commitment:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

This important right of collective self-defence of UN member states is even more important in a situation where a member state of the UN Security Council is both the aggressor state and enjoys a veto power that prevents the UN Security Council from taking appropriate measures to maintain international peace and security.

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine and is brazenly committing war crimes daily against the civil population in Ukraine, including innocent children.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine with the support of its military reserve, the Territorial Defence Forces, are courageously defending Ukraine’s independence for over two weeks now. In addition, about 16,000 foreigners have volunteered to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine and help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity.

Last week, U.S. officials indicated that they were actively looking into how Poland could provide its used MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine and the US would backfill them by providing Poland with U.S.-made fighter jets. Ukrainian pilots train on the Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets and could operate them immediately.

These fighter jets are urgently needed as they would help Ukraine (not NATO) enforce a no fly-zone over its air space and prevent massive and widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, future shelling of its nuclear power plants (as was already done on 4 March 2022) and the perpetration of daily war crimes by Russia in Ukraine.

On 8 March 2022, Poland offered to deliver over two dozen MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe. However, the U.S. bluntly opposed this plan on the basis that this would allegedly risk a broader war between Russia and NATO.

The fact that this plan was called off is incomprehensible, not only because it undermines the commitment of UN member states to help a state protect its population against war crimes in conformity with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, but also because it is highly inconsistent with the approach that numerous NATO member states, including the US, have adopted so far in response to Russia’s vicious military aggression against Ukraine.

Indeed, numerous UN and NATO member states, including the U.S., have publicly provided Ukraine defensive lethal weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and imposed severe sanctions on Russia, Putin and Russian oligarchs, all of which Putin considers to be acts of aggression against Russia.

In that sense, it is very difficult to follow the logic that providing Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles somehow does not involve NATO and its member states in the war that Russia has launched against Ukraine, whereas providing Ukraine with fighter jets would get them involved, particularly since these fighter jets would be operated under Ukrainian command by Ukraine’s pilots from Ukraine’s airfields.

This wavering and inconsistent public statements of NATO member states have obviously been perceived by Russia as signs of NATO’s weakness, which Russia is fully exploiting. Indeed, they have emboldened Putin, with his insatiable imperial ambitions and total disdain for human life, to intensify and broaden the bombardments of civilians and civil infrastructure in Ukraine.

It is therefore incumbent on NATO and its member states, starting with the U.S., to immediately undo this fiasco with its ongoing disastrous consequences and provide Ukraine – without any further delay – the available fighter jets that will enable Ukraine to withstand Russia’s military aggression and ensure peace and security.

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