The campaign to support Kiev with modern fighter jets is reportedly ?gaining momentum?
US military officials are "quietly pushing" the Department of Defense to greenlight the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia, Politico reported on Saturday, citing sources. So far, no countries have provided Kiev with modern Western-made warplanes, despite repeated requests.
According to one Pentagon official and two other sources familiar with the matter interviewed by the outlet, the campaign inside the Department of Defense to send the aircraft to Ukraine is "gaining momentum." Optimism has been partly spurred by the recent decision to send M1 Abrams tanks and Patriot air defense systems to Kiev, the report says.
Referring to potential F-16 deliveries, a senior DOD official told the outlet: "I don't think we are opposed," while noting that a final decision has not been made. Kiev has yet to insist that fighter jets are the top priority, the official added, explaining that the US is focused on helping Ukraine meet its more immediate needs.
One Politico source said that it could take the US "weeks" to make a decision on either sending its own jets to Ukraine, or approving the re-export of F-16s from other countries.
After the US and Germany agreed to provide Ukraine with 31 Abrams and 14 Leopard 2 tanks respectively, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky doubled down on his requests for long-range missiles and fighter jets.
While Germany signaled that it would not supply Ukraine with warplanes, on Wednesday, when asked about fighter jets, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated that Washington is "in constant discussions" with Kiev about its military capabilities.
"Can't blame the Ukrainians for wanting more and more systems. It's not the first time that they've talked about fighter jets. But I don't have any announcements to make on that front," he said.
Russia has repeatedly warned the West against supplying Ukraine with weapons, arguing that it would only prolong the conflict. On Thursday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that the arms deliveries serve as further proof that Western countries are directly involved in the stand-off between Moscow and Kiev.