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How Ukraine Keeps Getting The West To Flip On Arms Supplies

The open debate on weapon deliveries to Ukraine is highly unusual, but Kyiv has figured out how to use the public moral suasion — and patience — to repeatedly shift the question in its favor. But will it work now for fighter jets?

Photo of a sunset over the USS Nimitz with a man guiding fighter jets ready for takeoff

U.S fighter jets ready for takeoff on the USS Nimitz

Pierre Haski


PARIS — In what other war have arms deliveries been negotiated so openly in the public sphere?

On Monday, a journalist asked Joe Biden if he plans on supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. He answered “No”. A few hours later, the same question was asked to Emmanuel Macron, about French fighter jets. Macron did not rule it out.

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Visiting Paris on Tuesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksïï Reznikov recalled that a year ago, the United States had refused him ground-air Stinger missiles deliveries. Eleven months later, Washington is delivering heavy tanks, in addition to everything else. The 'no' of yesterday is the green light of tomorrow: this is the lesson that the very pragmatic minister seemed to learn.

If he won’t yet leave with Mirage 2000s, the Ukrainian minister did not waste his time in Paris. He obtained from France 12 additional Caesar guns, the long-range artillery pieces that have proven useful in Ukraine, as well as a Thales radar system, and the sending of 160 French trainers to Poland.

Speaking of which, we learned that the manufacturer of the Caesar, the Nexter group, had increased its production capacity to meet demand.

Transparency as soft power

Why such transparency? We are obviously in new terrain. No one had foreseen this war in Europe, and even fewer predicted that NATO armies were going to have to supply the Ukrainian army to such an extent.

The public debate on weapons has been going on since Day One, about every new category of weaponry supplied to Ukraine, with this constant question of whether a "red line" will be crossed. Open discussion is both a way for Ukraine and its friends to put pressure on the most hesitant governments.

How will the debate on planes end?

It also runs the risk of making the public associate the war with expense and cause concern about the risks of escalation. But discussing it takes out any potential drama, even if it has the disadvantage of keeping Moscow informed of upcoming Ukrainian capabilities.

Photo of a \u200bU.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flying over an undisclosed location

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flying over an undisclosed location

U.S. Air Force/ZUMA

How will the debate end?

How will the debate on planes end? At each stage, two questions arise. Does the delivery of new equipment change the nature of our commitment? In other words, are we risking “co-belligerence”? And the second question is Ukrainians' ability to use the weaponry.

If France ends up supplying Mirage 2000s, it will be with very clear rules of engagement.

Fighter jets create a different problem from tanks: they could be used to attack Russian territory, and therefore constitute an act that justifies war for Moscow. Yesterday, during a press conference, the Ukrainian minister and his French counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu, insisted on the defensive dimension of aviation. It is likely that if France ends up supplying Mirage 2000s to Ukraine, it will be with very clear rules of engagement.

If the United States will not deliver F-16s, it remains to be seen whether it will prohibit other countries from doing so, such as the Netherlands or Poland.

Ukraine understands that today's refusals can lay the groundwork for the answer it knows how to wait until tomorrow to hear.

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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