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Biden pledges support for Ukraine's air force
U.S. President Joe Biden on May 21 pledged support for Ukraine's air force, saying that the U.S. would start training Ukrainian pilots to fly fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16 fighter jets.
“This morning, I assured President Zelensky, together with all G7 members, our allies, and partners around the world, we will not waver. Putin will not break our resolve as he thought he could two years ago, almost three years ago,” Biden said during the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.
Biden also said that allies are "moving in the direction to put them (Ukrainians) in the position to be able to defend themselves in a way beyond what they’ve had to deal with so far."
President Volodymyr Zelensky assured him that Ukraine's forces would not use Western-provided F-16 fighter jets to attack Russian territory, Biden told reporters.
Biden’s comments come after the U.S. allowed its allies to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The move was welcomed by the UK, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, and others who committed to train Ukrainian pilots.
Ukraine endorsed the move after it had been campaigning for F-16s to be provided for months.
“No one will transfer these aircraft separately. It will be transferred by units. An army aviation unit is at least a squadron. It is at least 12 aircraft,” Yurii Ihnat, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesperson, told national television on May 21.
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said on May 16 that Ukraine wants between 40 and 50 F-16 fighter jets.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko claimed Western countries would face “colossal risks” if Ukraine is given F-16 fighter jets.
Poland and Slovakia have already provided Ukraine with 27 Soviet-era MiG-29s. However, Kyiv has shown the most interest in the U.S.-built F-16, which has been in service since the 1970s and is operated by over 20 countries.
Critics argue that allies' reluctance to supply F-16, Typhoon, and Dassault fighter jets and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Ukraine from launching a counteroffensive and liberating the rest of Russian-occupied territories.
Ukraine’s lack of advanced aircraft and missiles will likely prolong Russia’s war of aggression and result in thousands of deaths.
Read also: Editorial: Arming Ukraine won’t escalate war. Reluctance to do so will