International pressure on Biden to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets appears to working.
NATO allies began forming coalitions around getting Ukraine the jets and trained pilots.
Biden rejected pleas to provide the jets, but new developments likely signal a change in support.
This week, the US and its NATO allies made major progress towards sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Not only will the US authorize use of the US-made F-16s in Ukraine, it’ll help train pilots and possibly send fighter jets from its own stockpiles.
The developments mark a drastic shift by US President Joe Biden and US officials, who have long rejected the idea of authorizing F-16s in Ukraine.
It also suggests that international pressure — Ukraine’s pleas for the jets as well as NATO’s desire to send them — on Biden has worked. He has reversed his previous stance on the issue, opening the door for Ukraine to add the 4th generation fighters to its depleted air force, which Kyiv hopes will help turn the tide in their war against Russia.
News on the authorization of F-16 fighter jets came in a flurry. On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the UK and the Netherlands “would work to build international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F-16 jets.”
Shortly after, the US authorized its allies to export of F-16s — which are American-made and require Biden’s approval to use, similar to Germany’s reluctant decision to send Leopard tanks earlier this year — but wouldn’t necessarily send any jets from its stockpiles. The Biden administration has been reluctant to provide weapons like long-range missiles and aircraft that could be used to strike inside Russia at the air bases and logistic centers that fuel its invasion.
But that announcement turned out to be just another step in the process: Biden then confirmed to G-7 leaders on Friday that the US will join international efforts to train Ukrainians on F-16s. Politico reported that move opens the doors for Western allies to send Ukraine the jets, although the timeline and details are still murky.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted enthusiastically, tweeting that “the historic decision” would “greatly enhance our army in the sky.”
That “historic decision” was weeks in the making, officials told both CNN and Politico, signaling a gradual shift from the US’ original stance.
It’s likely the international and domestic pressure on the US played a role — but other developments, such as Ukrainian pilots mastering F-16s four times faster than Pentagon officials originally forecasted, also contributed to Biden’s new stance.
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