Biden 'ruling out' for now sending F-16s to Ukraine, he tells ABC's David Muir
Despite repeated, public calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President Joe Biden has ruled out "for now" sending advanced American fighter jets to help defend against an expected Russian spring offensive, he told ABC News anchor David Muir on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.
"You don't think he needs F-16s now?" Muir asked in an exclusive interview at the White House Friday.
"No, he doesn't need F-16s now," Biden responded.
Asked by Muir if that meant "never," Biden said there was no way to know exactly what the Ukrainian defense would require in the future, but that "there is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s."
"I am ruling it out for now," Biden said.
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While Biden has adamantly maintained that U.S support for Ukraine "will not waver" for "as long as it takes" to defeat Russia, he told Muir that the U.S. military has deemed other support more crucial for the current stage.
"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 HIMAR[S] (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System)," Biden said.
"There's things he needs now that we're sending him to put them in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall."
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Zelenskyy has been asking the U.S. and other European allies for fighter jets for the past year, but with increased urgency over the past few months as the country gears up for an expected increase in sieges from Russia. But in addition to the question of need, officials have also noted that the jets come with both logistical training challenges and potential escalatory risks with Russia.
Biden has dismissed the request before, telling reporters in January that he wouldn't send F-16s to Ukraine, but Zelenskyy and U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have simultaneously said that it's still an open discussion.
Ukraine has also upped its requests for long-range missiles.
The White House announced nearly $500 million in aid to Ukraine earlier this week when Biden visited Kyiv, and another $2 billion on Friday, which includes all of the military support Biden mentioned.
For more from Muir's interview with President Biden, watch ABC's "World News Tonight with David Muir" at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Biden 'ruling out' for now sending F-16s to Ukraine, he tells ABC's David Muir originally appeared on abcnews.go.com