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Pilots First, Then The Planes? The West Looks Ready To Break Major "Taboo" On Ukraine Arms

French President Emmanuel Macron's announcement that France will train Ukrainian pilots appears to pave the way for the delivery of fighter jets to Kyiv. Similar moves are coming from the UK. It's a delicate process to never declare war on Russia, while maximizing Ukraine's ability to repulse the invaders.

Image of a State of Emergency Service aviator in Ukraine.

A SES aviator in Ukraine.

State Emergency Service of Ukraine
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Another taboo has been broken. France will train Ukrainian fighter pilots, as announced by French President Emmanuel Macron Monday night in his interview on the TF1 television channel. The logical next step is to provide Mirage 2000 aircraft to the Ukrainian air force, but we haven't reached that point yet.

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It is however an important step forward in the commitment to Ukraine, and is in line with the logic of the last few months. It comes in addition to the Caesar guns, light armor, and air defense missile systems that France has already delivered and continues to supply to Ukraine.

Macron denied last night that there was any taboo on supplying aircraft. In fact, at each stage, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukraine's allies have weighed both the needs and capabilities of the Ukrainians, and the possible reaction of the Russians, before taking each new step.

The debate on aircraft began as soon as the decision was made, itself bitterly debated, to deliver tanks. Two months later, the step is being taken, and not only in Paris.

UK and F-16s

This decision has been agreed with the other NATO countries, and was one of the major points discussed during President Volodymyr Zelensky's tour of European capitals in recent days. The United Kingdom will also train pilots, this time on American-made F-16s.

The presentation made last night by Macron says it all: "We are not at war with Russia," the French President said. "We are helping Ukraine to resist the Russian assailant, which means that we are not delivering weapons that could reach Russian soil or attack Russia."

That's for the political spin. The reality is a bit different.

Image of a French Mirage 2000 flying.

A French Mirage 2000.

Ken Murray/ZUMA

A matter of choice

The reality is that some of the weapons that have already been delivered can reach Russian territory. For example, the Caesar guns that fire at a distance of more than 35 kilometers: a French official pointed out to us that, placed near the border, they can clearly reach Russia. He added that the choice not to strike Russian territory with French weapons depended on commitments made in confidence by the Ukrainians, more than on the capacity of the weapons themselves.

The next stages of the war are being played out right now.

The UK has thus announced the delivery to Ukraine of long-range Storm Shadow missiles, firing up to 250 kilometers. The issue is exactly the same.

The next stages of the war are being played out right now. First of all, the counteroffensive about which the Ukrainian leaders are trying to calm expectations, but which will nevertheless be a decisive moment. And in the longer term, the Ukrainian army's ability to influence the balance of power, if negotiations are to be opened.

At the same time, the issue of future security guarantees to Ukraine is being discussed in the run-up to the NATO summit in Vilnius in July. During Zelensky's visit in Paris, France stated that "Ukraine has the right to choose its own security arrangements."

However, Kyiv has already made it known that its choice is joining NATO, which has so far met with strong reservations in Paris.

Yes, a lot of taboos are falling at once.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After The War, After Abbas: Who's Most Likely To Be The Future Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked bitterly: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Photograph of Palestinian artists working on a mural that shows the  jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghout. A little girl watches them work.

April 12, 2023: Palestinian artists work by a mural shows jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza.

Nidal Al-Wahidi/ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

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