Jared Golden pushes for Ukraine to get F-16s soon
Feb. 28—One of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine's bid to secure F-16 fighter jets to help defend itself against Russia's invasion is U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine's 2nd Congressional District.
Golden is leading a bipartisan group of 16 lawmakers calling on President Joe Biden to "provide Ukraine with increased air superiority capability, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft requested by Kiev, or similar fourth-generation aircraft, as soon as possible."
"We believe now is the time for America to again lead the way and provide our allies in Ukraine with the tools necessary to defend their nation," the 11 Democrats and five Republican lawmakers said.
"The provision of such aircraft is necessary to help Ukraine protect its airspace, particularly in light of renewed Russian offensives and considering the expected increase in large-scale combat operations," the Feb. 16 letter told the president.
Biden told reporters after his recent meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev that talk about F-16s between them was "a private discussion." He hasn't ruled it out.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan called it "a question for a later time."
But Zelenskyy this week, in a speech to his country, said it is time for Western nations to get past their "aviation taboo" and deliver the planes Ukraine needs.
The backing of more aid to Ukraine comes at a time when the Republicans who control the U.S. House by a narrow margin are split on whether to boost aid or slice aid to Russia's embattled neighbor.
Some GOP leaders criticize Biden for what they say is a lax pace in providing the aircraft while other Republicans insist the U.S. ought to focus on domestic issues instead.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, said on Twitter this week that Americans "do not support the war in Ukraine at all and are very turned off with Washington for funding and pushing the war. We want peace."
Since Russia launched its invasion a little more than a year ago, the United States has sent more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, according to the German-based Kiel Institute for the World Economy's Ukraine Support Tracker. That includes military and humanitarian help.
Golden, in his third term representing a Republican-leaning district, said last fall that the U.S. ought to begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s or other modern fighters. That hasn't happened yet, at least in public view.
Now, though, with a renewed Russian attack on the horizon and bloody battles virtually certain along the long line cutting through Ukrainian territory that marks where both sides held out during the winter, military experts say new weaponry might make the difference.
In the letter signed by Golden and 11 colleagues, the lawmakers said that "F-16s or similar fourth-generation fighter aircraft would provide Ukraine with a highly mobile platform from which to target Russian air-to-air missiles and drones, to protect Ukrainian ground forces as they engage Russian troops, as well as to engage Russian fighters for contested air superiority."
"In contrast to the current, ground-based air defense platforms currently used by Ukrainian forces, fighter aircraft's ability to quickly traverse a large battlespace with a significant weapons payload could prove decisive for control of Ukrainian airspace this year," they said.
"Providing Ukraine with fourth-generation fighter aircraft represents a sound strategic investment in bolstering Kiev's military capability and bringing this conflict to a just conclusion," the legislators wrote to Biden.
"American leadership on this issue is crucial," the lawmakers said. "During the past year, the United States has consistently led the way for Ukraine to receive the military equipment necessary to defend itself against Russian aggression, including advanced air defense systems, armored fighting vehicles, and most recently tanks."
"We believe that a U.S. willingness to provide F-16 fighters to Ukraine may well encourage our NATO allies and European partners to provide comparable fourth-generation fighter aircraft to Kiev," they said.
Signing the letter with Golden were Democrats Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan and Susan Wild, both of Pennsylvania, Jim Costa and Jimmy Panetta, both of California, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Lloyd Doggett of Texas.
The five GOP legislators who signed the letter were Tony Gonzales and August Pfluger, both of Texas, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Don Bacon of Nebraska and Rob Wittman of Virginia.