Stockholm Offers Fighter Jets for Ukraine if Sweden is Allowed to Join NATO

The Swedish defense ministry said on Friday it could contribute its Gripen warplanes to a Western coalition that is trying to speed fighter jets to Ukraine — but only after Sweden is allowed into NATO.

The offer, included in a $200 million package of weapons, 155-millimeter caliber ammunition and other defense support for Ukraine, was the latest move in an ongoing diplomatic effort to persuade Turkey to drop its objection to Sweden joining the military alliance.
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“Support in the form of JAS-39 Gripen would be conditional on Sweden first becoming a member of NATO,” the Swedish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had tentatively agreed to admit Sweden in July, on the eve of NATO’s annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. The move was hailed at the time as a diplomatic victory that would show a united Western front against Russia.

But since then Mr. Erdogan has stalled, using his effective veto over Sweden’s entry as a bargaining chip. Last month, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey would approve Sweden’s ascension to NATO once the United States moved forward with transferring F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

Sweden’s conditional offer to give some JAS-39 Gripens also comes as NATO is racing to train Ukrainian pilots and support crews to fly Western fighter jets — what officials and experts describe as one of the few weapons systems that could change the course of the 19-month war. Allies have already pledged to donate as many as 60 F-16s to Ukraine once its pilots are ready.

Sweden had previously declined to say whether it would donate the Gripens. But the Defense Ministry statement on Friday said that it would review the training needed for Ukraine’s pilots as well as the support that Stockholm might receive from the Western fighter jet coalition as it mulls whether to reverse course.

That review, which must be completed by Nov. 6, would also look at how Sweden’s own air force and defenses would be affected if the country gave some of its warplanes to Ukraine. At least six other militaries fly the jets, which are manufactured by Sweden-based Saab AB.

For more than a year, Mr. Erdogan’s government has blocked Sweden’s bid, accusing the Swedish government of harboring Kurdish separatists that Turkey considers terrorists.

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