The American President, Joe Biden, was asked on Monday if the US would supply Ukraine with F-16s. He responded with a plain “No.” This intention was first expressed last week by German Chancellor Olaf Schultz when he said, “There will be no fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine. This was made clear very early, including from the U.S. president.” But some European leaders disagree with the German and American opinion. French President Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte, said that “nothing is off limits” when it comes to supplying Ukraine with arms. However, support from the White House will be required for any transfers of F-16s.
On Tuesday Biden was asked if he plans to speak with Zelensky about his calls to supply F-16s. Biden responded, “We’re going to talk.” So far, Biden and other US military officials have shown great reluctance towards the idea of supplying jets to Ukraine due to concerns they’ll be used to strike Russian territory. Something that Russia has laid out as one of their major “red lines.”
In the last year we’ve seen reluctance by the US to supply Ukraine with other weapons systems that they ultimately supplied. Specifically the HIMARS and Abrams tanks. The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, recognized this when he spoke with NPR on Tuesday. During the interview, he said, “What is impossible today is absolutely possible tomorrow. One year ago everyone rejected HIMARS and no one could imagine Abrams tanks. I don’t think fighter jets are easier than ATACMS, but I believe we need to try to push.” He finished by saying, “I’m optimistic but I’m not sure it will happen tomorrow. At least people have started talking about it.” Another Ukrainian military official also recognized that NATO ultimately supplies them with advanced weapon systems despite initial reluctance. CNN reports that he said, “It’s going to come sooner or later.”
In March of last year the US considered a plan which would’ve had Poland supply MiG-29s to Ukraine and the US would backfill the Polish fighter inventory with F-16s. American officials abandoned that plan saying it would be too escalatory. But recently American officials have said that their reluctance to supply F-16s is now more about logistical issues rather than concerns about escalating tensions between the worlds two largest nuclear powers. American officials view supplying F-16s as something that would take years rather than months. “We are providing them what we think they are capable of operating, maintaining, and sustaining,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said last week. “The F-16 — this is a very complicated system.”