PARIS – French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu has said sending French fighter jets to Ukraine was “no taboo” after a meeting on Tuesday with his Ukrainian counterpart.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was in Paris for talks with Lecornu and with French President Emmanuel Macron about France’s military support for Ukraine.
As the debate heats up over whether the West should send planes to Ukraine after it caved in to Kyiv’s request for tanks, France has indicated fighter jets is not off limits and that talks about aviation needs were ongoing.
“There is no taboo,” Lecornu said at a press conference, ahead of the talks with the French president.
“The (Ukrainian) minister came with members of his staff to detail the military needs of the Ukrainian army — of which the aviation is a part — this was explained to us,” he added.
The two ministers said Ukraine has not officially put in a request to obtain French fighter jets, but discussed more generally how military aviation would fit into military deployments. The French defense minister also announced that France would donate 12 Caesar cannons to Ukraine, in addition to the 18 cannons that have already been sent.
The talks in Paris came after U.S. President Joe Biden responded with a flat “no” to a question about whether the U.S. would provide Ukraine with F-16 jets. The messaging from France however recalls the dynamic Paris helped propel when it announced in January that it would be the first country to send Western-designed light tanks to Ukraine, paving the way, they say, for a loose coalition of countries to come together to send battle tanks to Ukraine
In Paris, Reznikov appeared upbeat about the prospect of obtaining fighter jets from the West, and told reporters he believed the mood among allies was changing.
“[The fighter jets] may be F-16s or [Swedish] Gripens or something from France, I’m not sure what will be the first … We’ll see, but I’m optimistic, and I think it will be as soon as possible,” Reznikov said.
The talks in Paris came after President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said “nothing was excluded” when it came to arms requests from Kyiv, and cautioned that any new type of delivery should not inflame the conflict in Ukraine, and not weaken France’s defense forces.
France is currently transitioning to an air force fleet entirely made up of Rafale planes, which means Paris will have older jets, such as Mirage 2000s, which could be given to Ukraine, according to several people familiar with the matter.