Defense & National Security — Fighter jets to follow tanks to Ukraine?

Ukraine’s breakthrough in securing heavy tanks from the U.S. and Germany has ignited talk about sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to defend the nation’s skies.

We’ll share what Ukraine is saying and the Western response, plus details on a busted murder-for-hire plot allegedly sponsored by Iran that targeted a U.S. journalist.

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F-16s could be next after tank breakthrough

The government of Ukraine this week quickly renewed its calls for world-class fighter jets after it secured the victory on Western nations sending the embattled country modern tanks, arguing it needed the help to defend itself against Russia.

Do everything possible: Shortly after the U.S. announcement on tanks, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense secretary, told The Hill that Kyiv would do everything possible to secure the fighter jets.

And Dymytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted Wednesday morning that Ukraine has “new tasks ahead,” naming western fighter jets as one of them.

ArmyINFORM, an information agency for Ukraine’s ministry of defense, also published an article Wednesday suggesting that Ukrainian pilots are already training in the U.S., but there has been no public announcement on such a program.

Can’t blame ’em for asking: Asked to comment on the possibility of fighter jets going to Ukraine, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Wednesday said he had no news to share.

“Can’t blame the Ukrainians for wanting more and more systems,” Kirby said. “It’s not the first time they’ve talked about fighter jets, but I don’t have any announcements to make on that front.”

Time for an upgrade: Kyiv operates a fleet of aging Soviet aircraft and has requested western, modern fighter jets since the onset of the war — but so far it has remained out of the nation’s grasp.

Toeing the line: Supplying jets would be another escalation in terms of U.S. support for Ukraine, and the Biden administration has been careful in offering support that might intensify the conflict with Russia — particularly with the fear of nuclear weapons hovering over the war.

Hopeful signs: The supplying of jets seems much less unlikely after the Biden administration made a major U-turn by agreeing to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

  • The administration did so to convince Germany to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Germany also gave its blessing for other allies to send the German-made Leopards to Kyiv.

  • A number of experts think the supplying of jets to Ukraine by the U.S. is now likely to happen.

Ukraine has slowly secured more and more advanced weaponry from the U.S. and European allies, and they say American-made F-16s will probably follow that same course.

Read more here

FBI arrests three men in Iranian murder-for-hire plot

At least three men have been arrested in a murder-for-hire plot allegedly sponsored by Iran that targeted a U.S. journalist and human rights activist who is a prominent critic of Tehran, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday.

All three of the defendants are expected to stand trial, Garland added, with two of the men in U.S. custody and a third awaiting extradition, though he did not say from where.

“These charges arise out of an ongoing investigation into the government of Iran’s efforts to assassinate, on U.S. soil, a journalist, author and human rights activist who is a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin,” Garland said during a press conference.

The intended victim: While Garland did not name the victim, it is believed to be Masih Alinejad, a prominent critic of the Islamic Republic who was earlier the target of a kidnapping plot that was disrupted by the FBI and revealed in an unsealed indictment in July 2021.

Alinejad on Friday identified herself as the victim of the murder-for-hire plot, writing and posting a video on Twitter that she met with 12 FBI agents in New York where she learned that the three men were arrested.

“This is the face of a person who was the target of an assassination plot,” Alinejad said in the video.

Plot details: Garland detailed the plot laid out in the indictment alleging that individuals in Iran tasked Rafat Amirov with carrying out the murder-for-hire plot, with Amirov described as a member of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran. He was expected to be presented in federal court in New York on Friday.

Two other individuals, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev, are alleged to have been directed by Amirov to carry out a murder plot against Alinejad.

A ‘disturbing pattern’: National security advisor Jake Sullivan released a statement Friday responding to the unsealed indictment. While it did not name Alinejad, he has previously met with the human rights activist and spoke with her last summer following Mehdiyev’s arrest near her home.

Sullivan said in his statement that the Justice Department’s indictment “follows a disturbing pattern of Iranian Government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world.”

Read the full story here


  • Retired Army Gen. David Patraeus will speak at a Washington event on new western aid for Ukraine and the Russian military shake-up at 10 a.m.

  • The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft will hold a discussion on “Blinken’s Trip to Beijing: U.S.-China Relations at a Crossroads,” at 12 p.m.

  • The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will host an online event on “The Russian War in Ukraine: What Was Accomplished in Minsk 2014-2022 and Why Did the Peace Process Ultimately Fail?” at 12:30 p.m.

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a press briefing on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s anticipated visit to Beijing the first week in February, at 4 p.m.

  • The Institute of World Politics will hold a talk on “Lessons Learned From the Russo-Ukraine War and How They Can be Applied to a U.S. China Conflict,” at 5 p.m.

  • The Stimson Center will hold a virtual discussion on “A South Korean Nuclear Program? Assessing the Risks,” at 7 p.m.


That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you next week!

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