The F-16s that NATO is sending to Ukraine aren’t likely to arrive in time to help with Kyiv’s current offensive. The used planes won’t be enough to turn the tide in the air war against Russia, either. The alliance has a different message in mind.
By providing some of the most sophisticated and expensive weapons to date, Kyiv’s backers will tie Ukraine’s military more closely than ever to the bloc, showing Vladimir Putin he’s wrong to think he can outlast them in the conflict.
It’s a potentially risky approach. While allies have managed to reduce the upfront expense by offering planes from its members’ existing fleets, keeping those aging F-16s in the air may cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year — just as pressure is growing in Europe and the U.S. over the rising bill for continued support of Ukraine.