An F-16C Fighting Falcon assigned to the 85th Test Evaluation Squadron shoots an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM over testing ranges near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 19, 2019.InternationalIndiaAfricaOnce touted as one of the most prosperous and developed countries in Africa, Libya was turned into a failed state divided into warring factions after a seven-month NATO bombing campaign in 2011. The intervention began after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi proposed introducing a gold-backed regional currency to replace the dollar and the CFA franc.Ukraine needs more advanced US weapons, including F-16 fighter jets, former Obama-era Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said.“I’m in favor of sending weapons that Kiev needs for defense, and I think the F-16 is something that the United States should seriously consider,” Panetta said in an interview with an Italian newspaper on Wednesday.“The most important thing in the coming months is that Ukraine can maintain its momentum to force the Russians out of the Donbass,” the former official said. “I would encourage them to try to retake Crimea as well. I think that’s only way to bring [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to the negotiating table,” he added.Panetta, who served as head of Obama’s Pentagon between 2011 and 2013, and as head of the CIA between 2009 and 2011, stressed that time was not on the West’s side in Ukraine, with a long, drawn out conflict of attrition threatening to “undermine the policy of the United States and its allies.” Ukraine, he said, “has to show that is winning, and it has to do so soon.”Implying that Kiev enjoys a sense of strategic autonomy, and is not just a US puppet government, Panetta suggested that today, “neither camp seems particularly interested in achieving a negotiated peace in Ukraine,” with “both Putin and Kiev looking for the edge in the field. That makes it very difficult for any external actor to develop an approach that can be accepted by both parties.”During his tenure as Obama’s CIA and Pentagon chief, Panetta consistently pushed the president into a hardline foreign policy. Panetta criticized his former boss in 2014 for failing to provide arms to the jihadist rebels in Syria sooner, and fervently supported the NATO assault on Libya, the aftermath of which Obama would later characterize as the “worst mistake” of his presidency. One of the first Western officials to admit that the Ukrainian crisis was a “proxy war” between the West and Russia, Panetta warned ahead of the conflict that there would be “no question” that American troops’ lives were “going to be at stake” if a hot war broke out.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineLIVE UPDATES: F-16s for Ukraine Not on Table, Stance Unchanged – White House6 March, 05:13 GMT
US and European officials and media have spent weeks discussing the possibility of providing advanced Western air power, including F-16 fighters, to Ukraine. President Joe Biden has so far ruled out the idea, saying Kiev “doesn’t need” the planes right now, but hinted that they might get them at a later date.Russian officials have warned repeatedly about the security implications of the tens of billions of dollars of military aid that the US and its allies have already sent to Ukraine, including the danger of turning the Ukrainian conflict into a wider conflagration, and the threat of weapons destined for Ukraine ending up in other global hotspots.AnalysisF-16 Fighters: US and NATO Getting Bogged Down in Ukraine Conflict7 March, 18:31 GMTLast week, former top Russian arms negotiator Evgeny Buzhinsky told Sputnik that F-16s and other NATO fighters are especially dangerous because, in the absence of airfields in Ukraine equipped to station them, the planes could be flown out for sorties against Russia from neighboring NATO countries, which would make them legitimate targets for Russian retaliation, thus dramatically increasing the chances of escalating the crisis into a global nuclear war.Despite these dangers, Washington hawks have nevertheless pushed the idea of sending F-16s to Kiev. On Tuesday, sources told US media that a small number of Ukrainian pilots are already stationed in the US and engaged in flight simulator training meant to determine how long it would take them to be able to learn how to fly F-16s and other American warplanes.