Ukraine Can Bring Putin's War to 'Rapid Conclusion' With U.S. Fighter Jets

The United States and President Joe Biden need to soon approve the sending of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to provide a "rapid conclusion" to the war, former military personnel told Newsweek.

While NATO has kept the door open to heeding requests of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on such aircraft, Biden has remained reticent.

Today marks one year since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, which has not only cost Russia more than approximately $9 trillion but has led to Russian President Vladimir Putin's army losing nearly 130,000 personnel in addition to over 6,300 armored combat vehicles and nearly 300 military jets.

"It's hard not to advocate airpower when you see what happened in Serbia or Desert Storm," retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jeffrey Fischer told Newsweek from Austria. "When you can fly at your own will, you provide maneuver space and top-cover protection and take away from the enemy."

"I believe air superiority for Ukrainians is instrumental for bringing a rapid conclusion to this war," he added.

Putin's 'rapid conclusion' of war
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured at a press conference in Moscow on February 15, 2022. Former U.S. military personnel and members of Congress have pushed for President Joe Biden to send F-16 fighter jets to avoid an even more drawn out conflict in Ukraine. Kay Nietfeld/Getty

Fischer compared the present conflict to the battlespace of World War II, saying that "without altitude you have a battle of attrition." He echoed the Colin Powell doctrine that originated prior to the Gulf War, in which eking out battle victories won't suffice in the long term.

"I fear that we're tumbling like we did in Vietnam....It's hard to argue the Ukrainians don't need air superiority when [Biden] just took a train for 10 hours," he said, alluding to the president's recent trip to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky. "To me, that doesn't pass the giggle test."

Mark Cancian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Reserve colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote Tuesday that continued U.S. aid is necessary for three main reasons: armies in conflict require a continuous flow of weapons and ammunition, equipment gets lost or damaged and needs to be replaced, and due to Ukraine's doubling of its armed forces, more training is required to operate machinery like Patriots, tanks and possibly F-16s.

He wrote that wartime pressure "may become so strong that the United States feels obligated to do something," as it did by announcing the sending of Abrams tanks.

"Jet aircraft, as with tanks, have taken on a symbolic importance beyond their military contribution," Cancian told Newsweek.

When asked if the timeline matters in terms of seasons, with Russia and Ukraine on the verge of fighting on a post-winter battlefield, Cancian said seasons don't matter as much as war fatigue.

Domestically, a small group of Republicans has pushed for all financial and security aid to Ukraine to completely stop. Cancian points out that "the good news" is that the Biden administration does not need to go back to Congress for more money until about mid-July.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers from Alabama, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner of Ohio released a statement Thursday urging the Biden administration to swiftly provide more aid to Ukraine.

"Putin's unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine has lasted a year too long," reads the statement by the Republican trio. "The people of Ukraine have shown unmatched strength and courage, and with the aid of Western weaponry, they have decimated Russia's war machine."

"The gruesome Russian war crimes and atrocities must end," they added. "President Biden needs to stop dragging his feet on providing the lethal aid necessary to end this war. Continued half-measures by the Biden administration will only drive up the cost of this war in lives and dollars."

When asked if his stance has changed regarding sending F-16s to Ukraine, Leslie Shedd, communications director and senior adviser for McCaul, told Newsweek, "It definitely has not."

"I think he's been pretty clear that he thinks we should be sending [Ukrainians] what they ask for when they ask for it rather than fretting about provoking Russia," Shedd said. "The Biden administration has been wrong every time on that front; none of the weapons they initially claimed would 'provoke' Putin have provoked him."

Fischer, who worked in the Pentagon for seven years, said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley have shown "some wiggle room in what both feel" regarding potentially sending F-16s.

He has communicated with other colonels and generals in Europe where the sentiment is "vastly different," he added. Training Ukrainians has also become a faster process than expected, while he believes there are enough F-16 pilots who would sacrifice their time to teach them.

"We have enough money in the bank account to counter Russia's narrative that it's too expensive or escalatory in nature," he said, adding that there's the potential in the long term to lose more Ukrainian and Russian lives because the U.S. is "too afraid to find a quick solution to this war."

Newsweek reached out to the White House and Pentagon for comment.