Biden Signals to G-7 Leaders He’ll Support Sending F-16s to Ukraine

May 19, 2023

President Biden told Group of Seven (G-7) leaders that the U.S. will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.

The Administration is hopeful the training on the F-16s can begin in the “coming week,” a senior U.S. official told The Hill. 

It’s a turnabout for the Biden Administration, which had previously rejected calls from Ukraine and other allies to proffer the F-16 jets, citing cost concerns, lengthy training time for pilots and the possibility that Russia would view the provision of the American-made jets as an escalation.

Earlier this week, however, both the UK and the Netherlands put their backing behind a coalition to aid in Ukraine’s push for the F-16s.

The Netherlands, along with Denmark, Belgium and Norway, have at least 125 combat-ready F-16s in their arsenals, according to the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. A senior Ukrainian official familiar with the talks said Wednesday that all four nations were amenable to sending used jets to Ukraine.

Because the F-16s are made in the U.S., Washington must approve the transfer of the jets from one foreign nation to another. It’s much the same situation that occurred in Berlin over other allies sending their German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The U.S. remains reluctant to send any of its own F-16s to Kyiv, but U.S. officials told CNN that the White House is prepared to approve the export of the jets to Ukraine from allies’ own supplies.

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby noted that the U.S. has been forward-looking about Ukraine’s “future capabilities” and needs. He added that F-16s are not “on the agenda” at the G-7, but discussions about the fighter jets could potentially come up in sideline talks amid the summit. 

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