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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Northern Europe is breaking the ice of the aviation coalition

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States has made the largest contribution to supporting Ukraine's ability to resist among its international partners. In recent months, however, there has been a trend toward increasing European responsibility for supporting Ukraine. The upcoming elections in the United States are making defense support for Ukraine a factor in domestic political debate. Unfortunately for Ukraine, the U.S. presidential election poses far more threats than opportunities. The main candidates from the Republican Party are either openly opposed to supporting Ukraine or in favor of ending the war as soon as possible. This raises doubts about further assistance to Ukraine and pushes, on the one hand, the Ukrainian government to look for ways to ensure its ability to continue resistance under the threat of reducing US aid or even halting it, and, on the other hand, European governments to rethink the current security situation on the continent, development scenarios and possible threats posed by Russia's potential success in Ukraine. 

Significant support among EU states comes from the Nordic countries, which, along with the Netherlands, were the first countries to announce the donation of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine after the decision was agreed with the United States. In August 2023, Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the heads of government of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. In Denmark and Sweden, the Head of State met with monarchs and parliamentarians. In constitutional monarchies, kings and queens often play a constructive role in building public consensus on certain issues. Therefore, this meeting is definitely a positive development for Ukraine. In addition to that, the President of Ukraine met with the people's representatives in the parliaments of Denmark and Sweden. These meetings demonstrated the broad support for Ukraine, and specifically in the case of Denmark, the commitment to support of Ukraine not only by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who has shown leadership in helping Ukraine, but also by the entire Danish parliament. In the Parliament, President Zelensky was greeted with a standing ovation. 

The main issues discussed during the visit were the aviation coalition and other issues of military-technical cooperation. In Sweden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy raised the issue of transferring Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters to Ukraine. According to the president, the Ukrainian army needs to control the sky to ensure further advancement of troops and the liberation of the Russian-occupied territories.  Back in June, the Swedish government announced that Ukrainian pilots were going to be trained on Swedish-made fighter jets.[1] Although Swedish officials have not yet confirmed their readiness to provide the aircraft, given the fact that the training process has already begun, we can expect that next year Ukrainian pilots will be defending Ukrainian skies with Gripen aircraft. 

A breakthrough achievement became an agreement with the Swedish side on the joint production of the Swedish infantry fighting vehicle CV90 in Ukraine. In the context of the war of attrition, Ukraine is looking for ways to ensure the production of weapons with its own resources and through joint production with partner countries. The Russian Federation has adapted to warfare and is now providing itself with equipment necessary to continue its aggression. Therefore, Ukraine must strengthen its own capabilities, and the agreement with Sweden is an extremely positive precedent. 

In the Netherlands and Denmark, the main achievement of the Ukrainian President's visit was an agreement on the provision of F-16 aircraft after training of Ukrainian pilots and engineers. Ukraine will receive 42 aircraft from the Netherlands. From Denmark - 19 units. During his visit to Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that Norway will also provide Ukraine with F-16s that are currently in service. At present, the exact number of fighters Norway plans to provide is unknown; two F-16s will be allocated for a training mission for Ukrainian pilots. The head of the Norwegian government also announced the provision of IRIS-T air defense systems and demining equipment to Ukraine. According to Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway will also do everything necessary to convince its partners to provide Ukraine with NASAMS air defense systems. 

Strengthening Ukraine's air defense, providing demining equipment, and other military, technical, and humanitarian assistance: European countries, and especially the Nordic countries, make a significant contribution to the realization of Ukraine's priorities.  

Diplomatic support for Ukraine is also important. Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland have joined the G7 Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine. These countries supported the Peace Formula and expressed their readiness to join the implementation of some of its provisions. It was in Denmark that the first consultations at the level of National Security Advisors of the leaders of the states on the Peace Formula took place. The soft power of the Nordic countries and their active work to promote a just end to the war based on the Ukrainian Peace Formula is an important driver of Ukraine's position at the global level. 

While the U.S. administration postponed the announcement of the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, the Netherlands and Denmark, joined by Norway, made this step. This important decision will accelerate the delivery of the aircraft to protect Ukraine's skies. However, although Europe is doing increasingly more for Ukraine's victory with each passing month of the war, the US military capabilities remain unrivaled. Therefore, it is important that the decisions of European states influence further U.S. assistance and that Ukraine receives fighter jets from overseas. Currently, we can see that European countries have taken on the main burden in the tank coalition. Although the United States has about 8,000 Abrams tanks[2], Ukraine is to receive only 31 tanks from the United States in the fall. For comparison, in peacetime Poland agreed to purchase 350 Abrams tanks for its army. 

The United States is not providing Ukraine with enough weapons to defeat the Russian Federation on the battlefield. Ukraine is receiving increasing amounts of military assistance from European countries, which understand that Russian aggression is a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the European security architecture, and thus to their own security and well-being. In the coming months, Ukraine may succeed in signing agreements with European companies on joint production of weapons, their localization, and expansion of general military assistance. The relevant agreements may be signed in the fall at the Defense Industries Forum. This will be a qualitative addition to the development of military-technical cooperation at the governmental level between Ukraine and European partner countries.

1. Tolfte stödpaketet till Ukraina, 16.06.2023,
2. US Army Readies Ukraine Abrams Tank Options For Policymakers, 25.01.2023,
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