Defense & National Security — West rebuffs Ukraine's fighter jet request

The United States and Germany continue to turn down Ukraine’s requests to send fighter jets to the embattled country, with President Biden on Monday firmly rejecting the idea Washington would send Kyiv F-16s.  

We’ll share the Biden administration’s latest reasoning plus details on China’s warning to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) against visiting Taiwan and a prediction from an Air Force general on when he believes the United States will be at war with China.   

This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell.

Biden says US won’t provide Ukraine with F-16s

President Biden responded “no” when asked on Monday if the United States will provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. 

Biden last week announced a decision to send 31 Abrams battle tanks to the country. Shortly after that announcement, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s Defense secretary, told The Hill that he was optimistic about receiving Western fighter jets, like American F-16s. 

Resistance: The U.S., however, has resisted sending the fighter jets, with national security adviser John Kirby saying last week he “can’t blame the Ukrainians for wanting more and more systems.”  

“It’s not the first time they’ve talked about fighter jets, but I don’t have any announcements to make on that front,” he added. 

Ukrainians have sought American F-16s since early last year when Russia first invaded.   

Visit up in the air: The president also told reporters Monday that he’s “not sure” if he will go to Europe for the one-year anniversary of the start of the war, which is next month. He added though that he was planning to visit Poland but didn’t yet know when. 

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is warning against a race to arm Ukraine with high-powered weapons as Ukraine ramps up its calls for fighter jets and long-range missiles. 

Scholz engineered a breakthrough with Biden to send modern tanks to Ukraine earlier this month, but has said fighter jets is a non-starter. 

“I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems,” Scholz said in an interview with German news outlet Tagesspiegel. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued pleas over the weekend for long-range missiles and fighter jets as he seeks to strengthen the country’s air defense.   

But Germany has insisted the country will not be equipping Ukraine with the warplanes. 

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China urges McCarthy not to visit Taiwan

China is warning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) against visiting Taiwan after reports that the GOP leader is planning a trip later this year to the island, which is a flashpoint in the rising tensions between Beijing and Washington

“We urge certain individuals in the U.S. to earnestly abide by the one-China principle,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a statement Monday, indirectly referring to McCarthy’s plans, adding China is “opposed to any official interactions with Taiwan.” 

Early stages: The Chinese response follows a Punchbowl News report last week that the Pentagon is in the “early stages” of planning McCarthy’s visit to Taiwan, possibly this spring. 

Timing: McCarthy’s visit would mirror one by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last year which also drew ire from the Chinese government and further strained tensions with the U.S. 

It also comes as House Republicans stake out a hard-line position on China, with the new Congress establishing a select committee on U.S.–China economic relations as one of its first actions earlier this month. 

Flashpoint: China claims Taiwan — a self-governing democratic island nation off the coast of China — has an illegitimate government and that China has rightful control over the island. As Chinese President Xi Jinping expands his power within China, fears are rising that he will seek to exert control over Taiwan in the coming years, through economic, military or other means. 

While the U.S. officially adheres to the “one China” policy, which does not recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan, the U.S. has consistently supported Taiwan both economically and militarily as a democratic bulwark against the authoritarian Chinese government. 

President Biden has repeatedly suggested that he would send U.S. troops to help repel a potential Chinese invasion of the island. 

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US general predicts war with China in 2025

A U.S. general said in a memo on Friday that he believes the country will be at war with China by 2025, according to several outlets that obtained a copy of the communication. 

“I hope I am wrong,” Gen. Mike Minihan, a four-star Air Force general who leads the Air Mobility Command (AMC), said in the memo to troops under his command, which was first reported by NBC News

A gut feeling: However, he added: “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025.” 

Minihan told AMC personnel to accept some increased risk in training as they prepare for the “China fight” and sometime in February to “fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most. Aim for the head.” 

He also urged personnel in his command to get their personal affairs in order to “ensure they are legally ready and prepared” in March. 

Read the full story here 


  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a virtual discussion on “Assessing the Future Trajectory of China-Japan Relations,” at 8 a.m. 
  • The Atlantic Council will hold a virtual talk on “The real impact of Western sanctions on Russia,” at 9 a.m.  
  • The German Marshall Fund will have a virtual conversation on “A Tale of Two Winters: How Winter is Shaping the War in Ukraine,” at 11 a.m.  
  • The Hudson Institute will discuss “Moving Beyond Tragedy; Bucha’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor Look to the Future,” with Bucha, Ukraine Mayor Anatolii Fedoruk and Deputy Mayor Mykhailyna Skoryk-Shkarivska at 12:30 p.m.  
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies will host a talk on “A New Atlanticism for a Transitory International Order?” at 4:30 p.m.  
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies will also hold a discussion on “Holding Russia Liable for Invading Ukraine — Can It Be Done?” at 6 p.m. 



Hardheaded support for a Ukrainian victory 

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!