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Zelensky arrives at the G7 as Ukraine gains access to F-16s

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Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, arrived in Hiroshima on Saturday for talks with the G7 after obtaining long-desired access to modern US fighter jets and pilot training.

Zelensky made an unexpected appearance at the summit; he had been scheduled to participate via video. He did so after praising the White House’s “historic” decision to permit Ukraine to purchase F-16 jets.

Up until this point, US President Joe Biden effectively blocked the transfer of F-16s, citing lengthy pilot induction programs and the potential to escalate the 15-month-old conflict with Russia.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, insisted that there had been no change in US policy and that the choice had instead been made due to the “exigencies of the conflict”.

It is now appropriate to consider what Ukraine will require in the future to be able to thwart and defend against Russian aggression.

He added that Ukraine had pledged not to use US military hardware to hit targets inside Russia. “F-16s, fourth-generation fighter aircraft, are part of that mix,” he said.

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He continued, “We are going to proceed in a way that avoids World War III and we are going to do everything we can to support Ukraine in its defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The aircraft, according to military experts, would be a significant improvement over Ukraine’s outdated Soviet-era fleet, providing greater ability to strike targets in the air or on the ground.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak swiftly declared that the UK would “work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs” after the US veto was overridden.

Zelensky’s first post-war trip to the Asia-Pacific region provides an opportunity to consult with allies as well as win over important non-aligned nations who will also be attending the summit, like India and Brazil.

For Zelensky, “there is an opportunity to engage with these non-Western actors, to try to bolster support, or at least weaken what may be seen as ambivalence towards the conflict,” Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund think-tank, told AFP.

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They are important, too. Of course, they are particularly important in terms of sanctions,” he continued.

The Ukrainian leader, donning his signature olive-green hoodie, landed at Hiroshima Airport on a French state plane and was met by a phalanx of officials and a red carpet on the tarmac.

Up until his appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, where he met Arab League officials, his departure from Ukraine and flight from Poland were closely guarded secrets.

Zelensky’s impending arrival has taken center stage at the G7 summit, overshadowing a long list of other contentious issues, including how to address worries about China’s expanding military and economic might.

The G7 leaders did issue a joint statement on Saturday criticizing attempts to “weaponize” supply chains and trade, threatening that such efforts would “fail and face consequences”—clearly a warning to China.

In addition, the bloc promised to address weak spots in the supply chains for “critical goods” like batteries, semiconductors, and minerals.

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An EU official said, “What we have done with China over the past 20 years, encouraging development, was right, but perhaps we should have been more cautious on critical material, supply chains, and those elements.”

“I believe the goal of all G7 leaders is to argue that China has pursued a methodical strategy of acquiring essential raw materials and managing supply chains… and we are responding to this by diversifying,” said one of the leaders.

As the G7 leaders work to persuade developing nations that they can provide diplomatic and economic alternatives to China, there will also be discussions with non-members.

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