Republicans slam Biden for his ‘mixed-messaging’ for refusing to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
Sen. John Cornyn suggested the Biden administration should not take the warplanes off the tables.
‘I think this is something we ought to consider carefully,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘We ought to be supplying the Ukrainians with anything they can effectively use to defeat the Russian invasion,’ the Texas Republican added. ‘The administration has been a little slow to provide them what they need.’
He said the U.S. shouldn’t worry about upsetting Russia.
‘The Russians, they claim that these moves are “escalatory” for over a year now, everything we do. At some point we have to realize they’re just kind of bluffing.’
Asked on Monday if the U.S. would send over the warplanes Kyiv is pushing hard to receive, Biden answered with a simple ‘no.’
On Tuesday Biden said he was ‘going to talk’ to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about Ukraine’s latest request for sophisticated weapons, after just last week agreeing to send 31 Abrams tanks he once said could result in World War III.
Ukraine said it would continue lobbying for the planes, noting the U.S. had said no to providing other weapons such as tanks before relenting over time.
‘All types of assistance at the beginning went through the ‘no’ stage. This means ‘no’ as of today,’ said Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister.
Biden also said ‘I’m not sure’ when asked if he would take a trip to Europe next month to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion on February 24.
Biden did say he’d visit Ukraine-adjacent Poland, but he didn’t know when.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was at the front of the push to send F-16s to Ukraine, tweeted that Biden’s comment marked ‘another example of not seizing the moment.’
On Tuesday Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnaht was quoted by Ukrainian outlet as saying that Kyiv needs up to 200 multi-role fighter jets – such as F-16s – to defend its skies.
A number of Senate Republicans are urging President Biden to put the breaks on taking Ukraine’s request for F-16 fighter jets off the table
He said that Russia’s warplanes currently outnumbered Ukraine’s by five or six to one.
Last week, before Biden’s remarks deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said in an interview with MSNBC the U.S. would be discussing fighter jets ‘very carefully’ with Kyiv and its allies.
‘We have not ruled in or out any specific systems,’ he said.
Asked about Biden’s ruling out the fighter jets, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told DailyMail.com: ‘I think it would be ill-advised to leave that off the table for a future possible move.’
He added that senators had not gotten a briefing yet after the U.S.’s about-face on tanks and other offensive weapons, but he questioned what comes next in the ‘appropriate sequence’ of aiding Ukraine to win the war.
‘We’ve got a lot of things moving over there we’re talking about tanks, we’re talking about armored personnel carriers, plussing up some of the missile defense systems, HIMARS, patriots,’ said Tillis. ‘I generally think we need to keep the discussion going but the question is based on best military advice from our Department of Defense on what is the appropriate order and timing to have the best impact.’
Sen. Josh Hawley, who has been vocal about wanting the U.S. to focus less on Ukraine and more on China, told DailyMail.com of Biden taking F-16s off the table: ‘I have no earthly idea what his policy is.’
Hawley decried that the U.S. had agreed to send the Abrams tanks – acquiescing to Germany’s insistence that it not be the only Western country to commit to providing tanks.
In the weeks leading up to the announcement on U.S. tanks, Biden had pleaded with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to free up the nation’s Leopard 2 tanks for shipment to Ukraine.
Kyiv’s forces were convinced that if Western tanks weren’t on the front lines come spring, Ukraine would be unable to fight off the coming Russian offensive and launch one of their own.
Germany did not want to bear the brunt of Russia’s ire by becoming the first to offer Ukraine the major new weapons system.
Biden’s announcement of the Abrams tanks came in tandem with the announcement Germany would send 14 Leopard 2 Tanks. The US is also providing 500 armored vehicles as part of the package.
Almost one year ago Biden said sending in tanks would cause World War III.
‘The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand … that’s called World War III, okay? Let’s get it straight here, guys,’ he said last March. ‘We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine.’
‘Our message to the Germans above all and the Europeans generally ought to be: You need to take the lead in Europe and we’ll take the lead with China,’ said Hawley.
‘The Biden administration is sending a message that we’ll be on the hook for the lead in Ukraine’s defense, we’ll be on the hook for what’s to come in the proxy war with Russia and the Europeans can sit back. So it is such an array of mixed messages.’
Sen. Marco Rubio, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, questioned whether it would be effective to use F-16s in Ukraine given the ‘range and reach’ of Russian anti-aircraft systems, and whether Ukrainian pilots could be trained to use them quickly.
‘Bigger problem here is no one can tell you what the plan is the long-term plan for Ukraine,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Part of that plan would tell you what you need and what you don’t need.’