The US determination to destroy Russia is raising the stakes: Is the F-16 a game changer?

Written by – Elijah J. Magnier: 

The United States and its Western allies are poised for a significant escalation in their confrontation with Russia. This comes on the heels of a pivotal decision to allow Western European countries with F-16 fighter jets to supply them to Ukraine. While seemingly at odds with President Joe Biden’s earlier claim that such deliveries could trigger ‘World War III’, the move underlines the West’s determination to ratchet up tensions with Moscow. This increase in confrontation comes after previous counter-attacks failed to achieve the desired results. As the world watches, one question looms: how will Ukraine’s intensified attacks on Moscow and other Russian provinces, coupled with the influx of new lethal weapons, shape the trajectory of the ongoing Western-Russian struggle? 

A senior North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) diplomat at its Brussels headquarters has confirmed “the start of training of Ukrainian pilots by 12 NATO member states. This training includes American, French and British fighter jets to assist Ukrainian pilots. It is part of a concerted effort to bolster Ukraine’s readiness to confront Russia and enhance the air capabilities of countries sending their aircraft to support Kyiv. This strategic manoeuvre includes America’s agreement with Denmark and the Netherlands to supply Kyiv with the first American-made F-16 jets. It is designed to test Russia’s response before other nations follow suit. Some 100 or more fighter jets are expected to be delivered.

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Read more of this content when you subscribe today. The backdrop to the recent Russian offensive saws diplomatic missions evacuated from Kyiv amid anticipation of a potentially devastating “carpet bombing” campaign. But Russian President Vladimir Putin, convinced that Ukraine is not a hostile country, unexpectedly opted for negotiations rather than unbridled military aggression. Despite the West’s different aims, this approach was a defining moment. It contrasted sharply with America’s preparations since 2008 when President George W. Bush advocated NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. He declared that Ukraine and Georgia were “the only non-NATO countries participating in all NATO military operations”, setting the stage for a geopolitical confrontation with Russia.  

In fact, it was President Bill Clinton who laid the groundwork for the war with Russia by breaking the verbal US commitment to limit NATO to 12 members and expanding membership to other former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. President Biden has continued on this path, building on the foundation he laid as Vice President under Barack Obama. This continued drive to expand NATO and challenge Russia’s borders reveals a long-planned approach. Preparations for confrontation have been evident since President Bill Clinton’s time in office, with the expansion of NATO beyond the promises made to Moscow and beyond the original 12-member alliance. The Russian army’s battlefield prowess prompted the US to convene the chiefs of staff of more than 50 countries at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This meeting aimed to devise plans to furnish Kyiv with military, intelligence and logistical support gradually.  

The Western military command intends to arm Ukraine with various weapons, including precision missiles, cluster bombs and armoured vehicles. This strategy is being pursued to ensure that the volume, quality and nature of Western support for Ukraine doesn’t force the Kremlin to retaliate disproportionately or use nuclear weapons. This has allowed the Western Joint Military Command to develop Ukraine’s capabilities and support it with weapons ranging from precision and fission missiles and drone factories to various tanks after ensuring that Russia accepted this Western support without responding with excessive force. So far, the US-European support has failed to defeat the Russian forces and their allies, which occupied over 100,000 sqkm of Ukrainian territories. Moreover, the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive could not reach its objectives, severely damaging all the Western intervention and support.  

America is pursuing a policy of indirect military support, urging European countries to take the first steps and rush to provide military aid to Ukraine so that responsibility is spread and distributed among everyone, making the Russian confrontation with all these countries impossible. The US is pursuing a direct and indirect military support policy, rallying European nations to provide initial assistance. This fragmentation of responsibility prevents a focused, unified Russian response to the collective Western effort. For its part, Ukraine has conducted strategic operations targeting the Crimean Bridge and covert operations inside Russia. Ukrainian drones managed to attack several Russian provinces and forced Moscow to close several airports on many occasions. These actions serve as a message, demonstrating Ukraine’s ability to take the conflict inside Russia. To this day, it is safe to say that all these Ukrainian strikes are non-strategic, will not change the course of the battle and will not deter Russia, especially since the Kremlin’s response is violent in the abundance of its accurate missiles and the devastation they cause in Ukraine.   

Russia’s response to these Western-Ukrainian messages is to improve its electronic capabilities to counter drones, strengthen its offensive and defensive capabilities, and close the weapons gaps revealed during the confrontation with NATO. As the US continues to violate its ‘red lines’, the recent approval of F-16 exports to Ukraine signals America’s intention to tilt the battle in favour of killing more Russians on the battlefield. It appears that Ukraine will receive the planes not in the middle of next year, as officially announced after training was completed, but sooner. Training is in full swing, and Biden is unlikely to wait until the end of his term to see the battle and the results of his F-16s in their first confrontation with Russian Su-35s.  

The delivery of these aircraft, including British Typhoons and French jets, could tip the scales in Ukraine’s favour in several combat arenas. This injection of nearly 100 Western aircraft could improve Ukraine’s ability to support ground offensives and strategically target retreating Russian positions. However, against Russia’s arsenal of 950 jet fighters, the expected air battle could be symbolic without significantly altering the course of the conflict. Using F-16s against SU-35s will allow many countries to upgrade their air fleets with the most capable aircraft. It will also prolong the war until a new US president takes office at the end of next year, hoping things will not get out of hand. Ultimately, this trajectory of escalation walks a tightrope, teetering on the brink of a broader conflict.

While the F-16 deliveries may extend the timeline of the war, they won’t return Crimea or the Donbas regions to Ukraine. Instead, these actions align with US efforts to draw Russia into a protracted conflict that could affect its economy or cause internal upheaval. 

Former Russian President and Putin’s deputy in the National Security Command, Dmitry Medvedev, declared: ‘Ukraine will be destroyed, and nothing will remain of it but ashes, even if it takes years or even decades. Be that as it may, we have no choice: destroy its hostile political system, or the West will tear Russia apart.”

This is precisely what the US administration wants to do: infuriate Russia and plunge it into a protracted war that will severely damage its economy. Or, at best, the Russian political system will be severely damaged, ripe to turn against its leadership. The US wants to plunge Russia into a protracted war that could destabilise its political system and encourage internal dissent, providing fertile ground for “colour revolutions” or a “Russian spring”. The unfolding events in Ukraine, driven by strategic actions and the use of weapons, underline the precarious balance as global powers navigate a treacherous geopolitical landscape.

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