Biden clarifies position on warplanes for Kiev
US President Joe Biden has said he’s currently ruling out the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia.
Biden was asked to comment on increasing calls from Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky for Western-made warplanes to be supplied to Kiev during his interview with ABC on Friday.
“Look, we’re sending him what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks. He needs artillery. He needs air defense, including another HIMARS [multiple rocket launcher,]” the US president said.
Those American weapons are intended to put Ukraine “in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall,” he explained.
“[Zelensky] doesn’t need F-16s now. There is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military, now, to provide F-16s,” Biden said.
However, he added that Washington has no way of knowing what Kiev might need in “a year, or two, or three from now.”
Interviewer David Muir pressed the president on the issue, asking if he was ruling the supply of jets in the future.
“I am ruling it out, for now,” he responded.
On Saturday, Biden declined to answer questions from reporters about what he told Zelensky regarding F-16s during his visit to Kiev earlier this week. “Well, that’s a private discussion,” he said before boarding his helicopter.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN on Thursday that fighter jets “are not the key capability” the Ukrainian military needs at the moment. “F-16s are a question for the long-term defense of Ukraine and that’s a conversation that President Biden and President Zelensky had,” Sullivan said.
British defense minister Ben Wallace said on Friday that London was also “not going to send our own Typhoon jets in the short term to Ukraine.”
Russia has long decried deliveries of arms to Kiev by the US, EU, UK and others, arguing that they only prolong the fighting without changing its outcome. Those deliveries and other forms of aid provided to Kiev have de facto already made Western nations parties to the conflict, according to Moscow.