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Aid pledge and F-16 caution: Biden vows unwavering support, Zelensky promises not to use jets inside Russia

Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere, said the US President

Peter Baker, Andrew E. Kramer, Motoko Rich Hiroshima Published 22.05.23, 04:43 AM
Joe Biden

Joe Biden File image

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that western allies “will not waver” in their support for Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine rejected Russia’s claim to have captured the eastern city of Bakhmut after nearly a year of fighting.

At a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations are concluding a three-day summit, Biden vowed that the major powers would remain united behind Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, saying that Russia’s President, Vladimir V. Putin, “will not break our resolve as he thought he would”.


Biden announced a $375 million package of military aid, including artillery and armoured vehicles, for Ukraine. He told Zelensky the US was doing all it could to strengthen Ukraine’s defence against Russia. “Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said.

Biden defended his resistance until recent days to providing F-16 jets to Ukraine, arguing that the powerful warplanes would not have made any difference in stopping Russian forces from taking Bakhmut, the hotly contested city in eastern Ukraine that may be on the verge of falling.

“F-16s would not have helped in that regard at all,” he told reporters at a news conference wrapping up the three-day Group of 7 summit meeting in Hiroshima. “It was unnecessary. For example, let’s take this Bakhmut, for example. It would not have any additional added consequence.”

The President’s comments came just a couple of days after he reversed course on the F-16s, agreeing to allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on the American-made jets and to work with European allies to transfer some of theirs to Kyiv’s military. It was the latest example of Biden’s declining for a period of time to provide Ukraine with an advanced weapons system, only to eventually agree.

Biden, who has been hesitant to provide some of the most sophisticated weapons sought by Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia into further escalating the war, argued that he was trying to calibrate which weapons to provide when they are most needed. “So it’s a different need, just like tanks weren’t needed in the beginning, but they’re needed now,” Biden said.

His reversal on the F-16s came just before he met with Zelensky face-to-face in Hiroshima. When they sat down together earlier on Sunday, Biden touted his decision on the F-16s, and Zelensky thanked him. Later, at the news meet, Biden said he had secured a promise by Zelensky not to use the jets to strike targets in Russia.

“I have a flat assurance from Zelensky that they will not, they will not use it to go on, to move into Russian geographic territory,” Biden said. “But wherever Russian troops are in Ukraine, in the area, they would be able to do that.”

Russia’s foreign ministry on Sunday dismissed the G7 summit as a “politicised” event that it said had pumped out anti-Russian and anti-Chinese statements and accused the forum of undermining global stability.

The ministry said the G7 had “irreversibly deteriorated” and that the forum had become “an ‘incubator’ where, under the leadership of the Anglo-Saxons, destructive initiatives that undermine global stability are prepared”.

New York Times News Service and Reuters

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