Biden says US won’t provide F-16 jets to Ukraine
President Joe Biden said the US would not be providing Ukraine’s armed forces with the American-made F-16 fighter jets that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and members of his government have asked for.
Mr Biden was addressing reporters upon his return to the White House when he was asked if the US would offer the single-engine multirole fighters to Kyiv.
He replied: “No”.
The president’s statement comes amid a renewed push by Pentagon officials to provide the jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and used by a variety of US allies, in the wake of his decision to allow Kyiv to acquire American-made M1 Abrams tanks.
Mr Zelensky’s government has repeatedly pressed Washington for the modern aircraft, which would be a significant upgrade from the Soviet-era MiG and Sukhoi fighters that Ukrainian Air Force pilots have used since the country gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.
But Mr Biden and his aides have repeatedly rebuffed Mr Zelensky’s pleas for the fighters, instead focusing on provision of artillery, armour, and ground-based air defence weapons such as the Patriot surface-to-air missile system which Ukrainian soldiers are currently being trained to use.
A Pentagon official told Politico last week that there had not been a final decision on providing the advanced fighters to Kyiv and said he did not think the Defence Department was opposed to doing so.
Over the weekend, Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv needs to show Washington and the West how the jets would bolster the war effort and provide cover for the armoured vehicles that are now being provided to Ukrainian forces.
“We must speak reasonably and tell them, for example, ‘This and this will reduce fatalities, this will reduce the burden on infrastructure. This will reduce security threats to the European continent, this will keep the war localized.’ And we are doing it,” he said.
Despite the president’s denial of any intention of providing the aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force, it’s possible that Mr Biden will change his tune.
At the outset of the war last year, the US refused to allow the transfer of so-called offensive weapons such as the M1 tanks and Patriots for fear of appearing to escalate the conflict.
A year later, Mr Biden has approved transfers of both weapon systems to Kyiv.
With additional reporting by agencies