President Joe Biden gave European nations a "green light" to start training Ukrainians to use F-16 fighter jets in the war with Russia, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN Sunday.
"The president has given a green light, and we will allow, permit, support, facilitate, and in fact, provide the necessary tools for Ukrainians to begin being trained on F-16s as soon as the Europeans are prepared," Sullivan told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." "The United States will not be the hold-up in ensuring that this F-16 training can get underway."
The Biden administration initially opposed furnishing the jets and required pilot training to Ukraine as recently as February with Biden telling ABC News at the time that Ukraine "doesn't need F-16s now" and that "I am ruling it out for now," according to the Associated Press in May.
That position changed following months of "internal debate" in the administration and the willingness of other European nations like Poland and the Netherlands to supply the jets to Ukraine and help in the training, the report said.
An official told the news outlet that the United States committed to being part of developing the training plan and "when, where, and how to deliver F-16s" to Ukraine.
The report said that training the pilots to use the fighters in Europe would take about four months.
"That training will take place outside of Ukraine at sites in Europe," Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a May press release announcing the decision to train pilots on the aircraft.
"But in terms of ... when that training will begin, how those jets will be provided, who will provide them, we're continuing to work with our international partners on that front."
Ryder said at the time that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "received several requests" from countries seeking permission to start the training.
"He subsequently took that matter, introduced it into our national security council policy process as part of a conversation about how we support Ukraine in the mid-to-long-term in terms of their defense needs, and there was unanimous agreement that this was something that we should and need to support," Ryder said in the release.
F-16s are an American weapons system and nations must work with the U.S. to acquire them and get permission to transfer them to other countries, the agency said.
"The fight right now is to ensure that they are able to successfully defend themselves while at the same time taking back sovereign territory," Ryder said in the May release.
"But we look forward to a long-term relationship with Ukraine in terms of their security assistance needs, and again, with the idea here that they can secure their hard-won gains and deter future aggression by Russia."
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