On the one-year anniversary of Russiaâs invasion of Ukraine, President Biden said Friday that heâs ruled out supplying the Ukrainian armed forces with F-16 fighter jets, at least âfor now.â
The 80-year-old president made the declaration during an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir, and comes despite repeated calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the multi-role aircraft.
âLook, we’re sending him what our seasoned military thinks he needs now,â Biden told Muir during the White House interview.
âHe needs tanks. He needs artillery. He needs air defense, including another [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]. There’s things he needs now that we’re sending him to put him in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall,â the president said.
âHe doesnât need F-16s now,â Biden added. âThere is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military, now, to provide F-16s.â
When Muir prodded further, asking the commander in chief if he wasnât ruling out sending Ukraine fighter jets in the future, Biden said, âI am ruling it out, for now.â
Last month, in a shocking reversal from the Pentagonâs opposition, Biden announced that the US would provide Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
The decision came after months of deliberations as Ukraine pleaded for tanks ahead of a renewed Russian offensive expected this spring.
But the Biden administration has firmly resisted sending fighter aircraft to the former Soviet state, as have other nations, such as Poland.
Ukraine has reportedly been quietly lobbying the US since at least last fall for F-16s.
Most recently, top Ukrainian officials met with Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and House on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, urging them to press Biden on the F-16 issue.
“They told us that they want [F-16s] to suppress enemy air defenses so they could get their drones” past the Russian front lines, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) told Reuters last Saturday.
The presidentâs remarks on Friday echo his unequivocal ânoâ response from last month when asked about sending Ukraine fighter jets to fend off the Russian invasion.
To mark Fridayâs anniversary of the start of the conflict, the US pledged to send another $2 billion in military aid to Kyiv.
The new package includes aerial drones, ammunition for rocket systems and howitzers, and mine-clearing and communications equipment, the Pentagon said.
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