Senior Defense Department officials were leaning toward supplying Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets until President Biden quashed the idea this year, Sen. Dan Sullivan said Sunday.
The Alaska Republican sent a letter about Ukraine’s urgent need for fighter jets to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, after hosting a delegation of Ukrainian pilots last summer on Capitol Hill.
“It looked like it was moving well through the bureaucracy of the Pentagon,” Mr. Sullivan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
But that momentum came to a grinding halt in January after Mr. Biden responded with a terse “no” to a reporter’s question about providing Kyiv with fighter jets.
“And then, last week the national security adviser [Jake Sullivan] says, ‘Well, we’re not going to do F-16s for now,’” said Mr. Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “That’s exactly the wrong approach.”
A study by the British Royal United Services Institute think tank said Ukraine needs Western jet fighters to take on Russia’s much larger air force.
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“Russian pilots have been cautious throughout the war, so even a small number of Western fighters could have a major deterrent effect,” RUSI said in a November 2022 report.
Mr. Sullivan said the White House will probably relent on an F-16 deal after Congress forces the administration’s hand on the issue. He said it has been a pattern of behavior for the Biden administration since Russia’s invasion.
“Every time there is a new weapons system that’s been proposed, they oppose it. They’ve sent them only after being pressured by Congress,” Mr. Sullivan said.
He noted that it took the White House nine months to approve providing Kyiv with Patriot missiles.