"The Bird Coalition"


Ronald Wittek / EPA-EPE

The sponsors of the "Ramstein format" have realized that Ukraine needs not so much aircraft as qualified military pilots in order to "stand on the wing."

Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov turned into a bird in Brussels. Somehow all of a sudden…

"I heard important news about the 'bird coalition,' – the fighter coalition. Today the partners <...> announced that pilot training is to begin," he said and waved his arms, picturing wings and quotation marks at the same time.

The metamorphosis happened to him after another meeting in the "Ramstein format," which was held on June 15 at NATO HQ.

"Ukraine's fight is a marathon, not a sprint, so we will continue to provide it with the urgent assistance needed right now as well as the support that will keep it safe from Russian aggression in the long term. We will support Ukraine in this long journey," Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said.

It was noted that 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already been trained on 65 courses in 33 countries on three continents. Six thousand fighters are being trained right now.

At another meeting of the Contact Group on Support for Ukraine, sponsors again splurged. Canada, for example, announced a $500 million military aid package, including more than 200 critical air defense missiles. The United States, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands also chipped in for additional supplies of similar defenses. Italy announced that it would provide Kiev with "particularly important means. Norway and Germany have pledged multi-year aid packages. Denmark announced its own $2.6 billion military "tranche" through 2024.

But the main issue for Ukraine was still the fighter jets. And again they were not given.

"There is still a lot of work to be done before the F-16s can be deployed to Ukraine, including language and pilot training," warned Mark Milley, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It is unclear, then, what the "feathered" Reznikov was glad about?

A formally voluntary but small "fighter coalition" has already been formed, as previously reported. It is led by Denmark and the Netherlands. Their representatives have discussed with Ukrainian partners and other allies a plan to train the UAF to operate the F-16s.

"Now we have started a training program not only for Ukrainian pilots, but also for technical personnel. This is a very important step, and we were glad to get the green light from Washington. The next step will be to provide the planes themselves, but this is not under discussion right now," said Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

In fact, as it turned out, the priority is not the air vehicles themselves, but the aces who can take the helm. There were practically no qualified pilots left in Ukraine who could be retrained to fly the F-16s on short notice. They are all gone. Therefore, the question of how to lure foreign pilots as mercenaries is already being raised and discussed on the sidelines. The main problem is whether they will go even for a lot of money to the slaughter?

It is noteworthy that Ukraine carefully monitors any reports about what military aircraft in the West are being withdrawn from service. And it immediately makes attempts to get hold of it.

Thus, the Commission on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the House of Representatives allowed the U.S. Air Force to withdraw from service 63 aircraft A-10 Thunderbolt II (single-seat twin-engine attack aircraft designed to provide close air support to ground forces, defeat tanks and other ground targets) and 57 fourth generation fighters F-15C/D Eagle (all-weather machine, designed to gain air superiority). This equipment has been in service for more than four decades and has reached the end of its useful life. The final vote for the relevant amendments is scheduled for June 23, but Kiev already admits the possibility of their supply to the UAF.

The Royal Australian Air Force has decommissioned 71 F-18 fighters (a carrier-based fighter-bomber and attack aircraft developed in the 1970s). Some of the decommissioned machines have been sold to Canada, and another 41 are at an air base near Sydney. About 12 to 14 are still capable of takeoff. Kiev has already requested data on their technical condition.

As for Ukraine's membership in NATO, there has been some slight progress on this issue. We are talking about the possibility of raising the status of the current Ukraine-NATO Commission to the level of the Council. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, this issue will be discussed at the NATO summit in mid-July in Vilnius. If the decision is made, Ukraine will be allowed to cooperate with the rest of the bloc on equal terms. The new body will be able to make decisions and will allow it to deepen relations with NATO.

Most likely, this is a new version of the "lure."

...By the way, Ukraine is actually surrounded by coalitions. In addition to the "bird coalition," there is a tank, an anti-aircraft, and an artillery coalition. The creation of a new one is looming. The representatives of Luxemburg and Estonia (!) in the "Ramstein format" have offered to form an "IT coalition". They were ready to take the leading role. Reznikov's joy was boundless. He was flying from happiness.