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Biden’s Decision on F-16 Transfer to Ukraine Solely in ‘This Letter of Request’ on Official US Websites


Yesterday (May 18 2023 ), members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05) sent a letter to President Biden, requesting he grant reexport licenses to Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway to allow for the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.   

In the letter, Commissioners reflect on recent meetings in Ukraine, where President Zelensky explained that F-16s would not only save Ukrainian lives but protect sea lanes that secure the world’s wheat supply. These powerful weapons could provide the advantage Ukraine needs to secure its freedom, and the only remaining hurdle to their delivery is the President’s approval.    

The letter reads:  

Dear President Biden,  

We urge you to grant reexport license to Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway to allow for the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. These countries have all expressed a willingness to transfer these powerful capabilities that are so critical to full Ukrainian victory.    

When our delegation traveled to Kyiv and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky the other week, he made the urgency clear. President Zelensky personally stressed that F-16 fighter jets are not only critical for saving Ukrainian lives, but are vital to protecting sea lanes for critical wheat shipments to Africa and the world. We have also been informed by European officials, including from the Netherlands, that the only remaining hurdle to urgent action on this F-16 reexport license is your approval.   

F-16s are badly needed in order for Ukraine to defend its skies against Russian aircraft and cruise missiles, which the Kremlin continues to employ to deliberately murder innocents, and gain air superiority to achieve durable battlefield successes. Ukraine has consistently requested these aircraft and they are now its highest priority request. We often hear that the United States strives to provide all the capabilities that our courageous Ukrainian partners request; now, we need only provide reexport license for our NATO allies to send these fighters.  

Only a few months ago, when Germany failed to grant reexport license for other countries to transfer its German-manufactured Leopard tanks, it faced heavy criticism from the democratic world. We do not want to impede Ukraine’s legitimate defense of its homeland and—as you have often correctly noted—its just war for Europe’s security, U.S. interests, and global peace.

These fighter craft were specifically engineered and purchased by our allies in order to deter and defeat the threat of Russian aggression. Now, as Ukraine fights alone against Russia and endures the mass murder of its people, these weapons should be permitted to be made available to do what they were made to do: protect the democratic peoples of Europe. Denying reexport license is in direct opposition to the core reason for the purchase of these aircraft; posterity will rightfully judge us harshly if we were to arbitrarily block the transfer of important capabilities that could save Ukrainian lives and secure battlefield victory.   

F-16s are a powerful weapon that could very well make all the difference in Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive and provide the decisive advantage it needs to compel the Kremlin to abandon this genocidal war. The United States has pledged to ensure that Ukraine has all the tools it needs to defend us all against Russia’s aggression. Allowing the reexport of F-16s would not only be consistent with that obligation, but it also does not even require the United States to provide any airframes itself. Given the enormous stakes that you have so often and clearly articulated, allowing reexport is entirely in line with our national security interests, our human rights responsibilities, and is essentially costless. 

Source csce.gov and Midtown Tribune News
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May 2023

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