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Biden to speak with Zelensky after saying US won't give Ukraine fighter jets

By Mike Brest,


President Joe Biden said he will be speaking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amid Ukraine's continued requests for fighter jets from Western allies.

“We’re going to talk,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday, a day after he flatly said, " no ," in response to a question about whether the U.S. would be sending Ukraine F16 fighter jets.


Ukrainian officials have long asked for F16s , though U.S. officials have said there is no plan to provide them to Ukraine imminently. These requests reemerged last week after the U.S., Germany, and other European allies agreed to meet Kyiv's requests for tanks as they prepare for both a Ukrainian and Russian offensive in the spring.

"What is impossible today is absolutely possible tomorrow," Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told NPR . "I'm sure that's absolutely realistic."

"Our partners are aware of the types of weapons we need — first and foremost, fighter jets and long-range missiles that can hit targets up to 300 km (more than 186 miles) away," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a briefing. "These are not weapons of escalation, but rather weapons of defense and deterrence against the aggressor. We are actively negotiating to unlock all these solutions. I have instructed all our diplomats in key capitals to make this a priority."

U.S. officials have acknowledged Zelensky's request for fighter jets , though National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said last week that he had nothing to announce about a possible aid package that includes them.

The United Kingdom has also declined to meet this request.

The fighter jets are "extremely sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly," a Downing Street spokesperson said Tuesday, adding that they “believe it is not practical to send those jets into Ukraine" given the conditions on the ground. The U.K. is committed to continuing to "discuss with our allies about what we think is the right approach" as it relates to assisting Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that “nothing is off limits in principle,” as it relates to the fighter jets request, while German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said last Friday that it’s “out of the question,” according to an interview with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Biden and his European counterparts have repeatedly denied some of Ukraine's military requests, though they have often later given in and fulfilled such requests, hence Reznikov's optimism. The latest example was last week's tanks announcement.

The U.S., Germany , and others came to an agreement to provide Ukraine with tanks due to Germany's refusal to send tanks unilaterally. The German Leopard tanks should reach the battlefield by March, while the U.S. M1A2 Abrams tanks are " many months " away. U.S. defense officials repeatedly said the maintenance and logistical requirements made them not an ideal system to provide Ukraine with before Biden ultimately changed his stance.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Western countries to maintain their supply of military aid to Ukraine, arguing that the war would likely depend on it.

“There is an urgent need for more ammunition, more weapons to Ukraine,” he said Monday while traveling in South Korea . “If they don't get that, they will not be able to resist and repel the Russian invaders under Russian aggression.”

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