Pressure on Biden to supply F-16s mounts ahead of Ukraine war anniversary

Polish F-16s
Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense via AP
In this photo provided by Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense, Polish Air Force F-16 fighter jets participating in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission operate in Lithuanian airspace, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.

The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and Ukrainian officials to equip Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets as Russia’s war approaches its one-year anniversary later this week.

Just after the administration last month announced it would send 31 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, Kyiv renewed its calls for the modern fighter aircraft. President Biden at the time said “no” to sending F-16s.

Now, calls at home are mounting for the U.S. to ramp up support as Russia begins a renewed offensive in Ukraine.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on Sunday said he’s hopeful the U.S. will send the jets.

“The fact is, the longer they wait, the longer this conflict will prevail,” McCaul said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” speaking from the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany. 

“We need to throw everything we can into this fight so that they can win… And I think the momentum is building for this to happen,” he said.

Reuters reports that Ukrainian officials have been lobbying U.S. lawmakers at the security conference to press the Biden administration for the aircraft. 

And last week, a bipartisan group of five House lawmakers argued that providing the jets could tip the scales of the conflict, Politico reported.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday pushed to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and answer Kyiv’s calls for the aircraft after Vice President Harris announced the U.S. has formally determined Russia has committed crimes against humanity during the war.

He said there was “virtually unanimous belief” among the 30 senators in Munich that “we should be training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 today so they can get the jets as soon as possible.”

The surge of pressure to send the fighter planes also comes amid concerns that China could move to provide weapons to Moscow.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC News that the U.S. is “very concerned” that China is considering providing “lethal support” to Russia that could include both ammunition and weapons.  

Blinken made the comments after meeting in Munich with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

“We are very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine. And I made clear that that would have serious consequences in our relationship as well, something that President Biden has shared directly with President Xi on several occasions,” Blinken said. 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Sunday also warned of “consequences” if China ups its aid to Moscow. 

Asked whether the U.S. has ruled out sending F-16s to Russia, Greenfield said, “We’re still having discussions on the ground with the Ukrainians. And, again, we have to ensure — and I think Secretary Blinken said this as well — that they have the training necessary and the capacity to use weapon systems that we provide to them.” 

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Biden administration F-16 fighter jets Joe Biden Linda Thomas-Greenfield Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham Michael McCaul Michael McCaul russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine

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