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A renewed bipartisan push is surfacing among Congressmen to pressure the Biden administration to approve sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, as Russia has almost completely encircled the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 8 senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with renewed calls to give U.S.-made fighter jets to Ukraine.
According to the letter, the senators argued that F-16s are desperately needed at this “critical juncture” and claimed that the jets would give the Ukrainians the advantage they need to defeat the Russians. The senators stated that providing the jets to Kyiv would be a “game changer on the battlefield” and added, “After speaking with U.S., Ukrainian, and foreign leaders working to support Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference last month, we believe the U.S. needs to take a hard look at providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.”
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Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has headed the bipartisan effort. The lawmakers are also pressuring the Pentagon for more information regarding what the timetable would need to be and what resources it would take to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16s if the administration agrees to send the jets.
Joining Senator Kelly in the renewed effort are Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth (IL), Tim Kaine (VA), Martin Heinrich (NM), and Jacky Rosen (NV). Also backing the letter were Republican senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Tommy Tuberville (AL), and Ted Budd (NC).
The Biden administration and defense officials, however, are still insistent that anti-air defense systems, artillery, and ammunition rank higher on the list of priorities for Ukraine and even testified to Congress recently regarding the same.
In addition to the 8 senators who drafted the letter, other Congressmen are also pushing for more, including Republicans Tom Cotton and Lindsay Graham.
While Cotton has accused the White House of taking “half measures” regarding the war in Ukraine and has a list of escalatory measures he would like to see taken, Graham has begun arguing that the U.S. should fire on Russian aircraft.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, confirmed during a Wednesday press conference that he recently spoke with Russian Defense Secretary, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time since October, which is a good indication that the two countries are not yet ready to enter a direct conflict, as some senators appear to be pushing for.
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