Kiev had previously been optimistic about acquiring Western aircraft
Sweden has no intention of supplying Ukraine with its state-of-the-art Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets, Swedish Defense Minister Pol Jonson said on Sunday. Kiev had previously said it would like to receive modern aircraft from its Western backers, including Stockholm.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksey Reznikov, in Odessa, Jonson was asked to comment on whether Gripen jets could be used by Kiev in its conflict with Moscow.
“There are no imminent plans to send the Gripen to Ukraine. I want to be clear about that, but I think it’s a very good plan,” he said, reminding everyone that several EU countries operated this type of aircraft.
While Reznikov made no follow-up comments, in an interview with Politico in October he expressed hope that Kiev would eventually receive Western state-of-the-art military hardware. “I’m sure that [deliveries of] fighter jets such as the F-16, F-15 or Gripen from Sweden will also be possible, he said at the time.
At the end of November, MP Magnus Jacobsson tweeted that if “Ukraine wants to buy the JAS Gripen, we should say ‘yes’. It’s not harder than that.”
In the Swedish government’s guidelines on arms exports, however, it is stated that, in principle, arms should not be sent to “a state that is involved in an armed conflict with another state”. They also say that weapons exports can be allowed if there are security or defense policy reasons for it and the move does not conflict with Sweden’s foreign policy.
While Stockholm signaled that deliveries of Gripen jets to Ukraine are not in the offing, the Swedish government in mid-November announced “the largest so far” assistance package for Kiev of SEK 3 billion ($290 million). The measure includes anti-aircraft systems, light all-terrain vehicles, winter equipment, body protection and other means of support.
After Russia started its military operation in Ukraine at the end of February, Sweden, together with its Nordic neighbor Finland, applied for membership in NATO, breaking with a decades-long policy of neutrality. The US-led military alliance approved the request, but their bid has yet to be ratified by all 30 members of the bloc, with Hungary and Turkey’s decisions on the matter still pending.
Moscow has repeatedly warned the West against arming Ukraine, arguing that this would only prolong the conflict.