During a press conference Monday to discuss an upcoming trip to Poland, President Biden announced that the U.S. will not be sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from some European countries and reportedly from some Pentagon officials. When asked by reporters if he would provide Ukraine with F-16 jets, he answered with a simple “no.”
However, Biden also said that he would not send tanks to Ukraine in March 2022, and yet last week he approved a shipment of not only M1 Abrams tanks, but also Bradley Fighting Vehicles. It is likely that this “no” is tentative.
When asked about sending tanks to Ukraine last March, Biden said, “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews – just understand, don’t kid yourself, no matter what y’all say, that’s called World War III.”
While Biden claims the U.S. will not send jets to Kyiv, the Ukrainian president’s office is saying that it is already working on expedited negotiations with Washington regarding possibly being supplied with long-range missiles and jets by the U.S. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that sending jets is not an option, although he was instrumental last week in the decision of both Washington and Berlin to send tanks to Ukraine.
On Saturday, a Zelensky advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press that “fast-track” discussions are taking place that focus on Ukraine obtaining both jets and long-range missiles “to drastically curtail the key tool of the Russian army” by giving Ukraine the ability to strike weapons warehouses that are far from the frontlines.
Meanwhile, reports emerged from U.S. media over the weekend that there is a growing movement within the Pentagon to pressure the Biden administration into approving sending jets to Kyiv.
According to Politico, “A contingent of military officials is quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile drone attacks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.”
“As Ukraine prepares to launch a new offensive to retake territory in the spring, the campaign inside the Defense Department for fighter jets is gaining momentum, according to a DoD official and two other people involved in the discussions,” the report continued. It went on to quote a defense official who said, “I don’t think we are opposed” with regard to sending F-16s to Ukraine. The senior DoD official spoke on a condition of anonymity and emphasized that there has not been a final decision made.
The White House has only commented thus far to say that the U.S. would be discussing fighter jets “very carefully” with Ukraine and its allies. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said on Thursday, “We have not ruled in or out any specific systems.”
While Germany could stand in the way, it should be noted that the Germans gave in fairly quickly to pressure from its NATO allies regarding the tank issues last week. In a recent interview, Scholz said, “I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems.”
“The question of combat aircraft does not arise at all,” Scholz added.
While both the U.S. and Germany currently do not support sending F-16s to Kyiv, talks are allegedly in the works with Ukraine, and as we have seen, both Biden and Scholz can change always change their minds.