The F-16s are U.S.- manufactured supersonic fighter jets that Ukraine has long wanted to have to enhance its air defenses. After many months of reluctance to supply them, Biden has given European allies permission to send Ukraine some from their stockpiles, as well as to train Ukrainian fighter pilots. Biden has been sharply criticized for failing to act more swiftly in this respect. Why has he been so cautious, taking so much time in a number of instances to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons? It may be that he has been calibrating supplying increasingly sophisticated weapons with great skill, following the frog in the pot of water analogue. It’s probably not true, but the story is that if you heat a pot of water with a frog in it, you can get the water to boiling without the frog jumping out because the frog only notices that the water is a little bit hotter than it was before, but there is never that shock to which the frog would instantly react. In Ukraine, Putin is in the pot of heating water, the heating consisting of the influx to Ukraine from the West of consistently more sophisticated and effective weapons. Putin jumping out of the pot would amount to escalating the war with nuclear weapons. If the West had heated the water too quickly, Putin might well have jumped out of the pot. He may still do so, but let’s hope he can be cooked before he does. A key factor here is the sentiment of the Russian people, which we want to be anti-Putin, not anti-the-West. We don’t want to feed Putin’s propagandistic narrative that the West wants to destroy Russia. Biden’s been doing pretty well at that.
Headline I read after I wrote the above: “Russia warns West sending F-16s to Ukraine ‘carries enormous risks’, per state news agency.” As has happened before, the frog noticed that the water was getting hotter and is splashing about, threatening to jump out of the pot. Maximize defense of Ukrainian territory and airspace, avoid attacks on Russian territory and airspace is the best policy.