White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday defended the Biden administration’s decision not to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, pointing instead to the aid the US is providing, including Abrams tanks.
“What I can tell you is that there's a lot of capability that is being sent, and will be sent in the coming weeks and months," Kirby told CNN. “The kinds of capabilities that we know will be critical to helping Ukrainians again in the fighting now in the wintertime, as well as the kind of fighting that we expect that they're going to be doing in the spring.”
Kirby said he believes the decision,announced last week, to send Abrams tanks to the region wasn’t one that was made too late, even amid reports of Russia gaining territory in eastern Ukraine.
“The decision on the tanks — and it wasn't just the US, it was the Germans as well, and the Brits before that — was really designed to help Ukraine get ahead of the fighting that we think ... everybody's going to see come spring,” he said. “So, this was actually one of those cases where we are trying to forecast the kinds of needs that Ukraine is going to require when the weather turns better — and we can expect that the Russians will try to go on the offensive then.”
Some background: President Joe Biden answered, "No," when asked by a reporter whether he would send the jets to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought fighter jets to help sustain his war effort against Russia. Biden has consistently said the planes aren't on the table, even as he has given aid in other areas.