President Biden said in an interview that aired Friday that he has ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine “for now,” suggesting he could be open to the idea in the future.
“No, he doesn’t need F-16s now,” Biden told ABC News, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When asked if that meant he won’t ever send F-16s, Biden said he couldn’t know what Ukraine’s needs will be in the future.
“There is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s,” Biden said. “I am ruling it out for now.”
Ukrainian officials have been asking for F-16s and other advanced fighter jets throughout the war but have focused their demands on aircraft since Biden and Germany agreed to provide heavy tanks. Biden said the US was focused on sending equipment Ukraine could use for a potential counter-offensive in the months ahead.
“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,” he said.
Top Republicans in Congress have slammed Biden for not providing Kyiv with everything Ukrainian officials are demanding. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed on Sunday that the war was “taking too long” because the US hasn’t sent longer-range missiles and fighter jets.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Biden of “slow-rolling” some weapons systems. “It took nine months to get them the Patriots, and I fear the same thing is happening right now with the F-16s,” he said.