(CNSNews.com) – National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan echoed President Biden on Sunday, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” that providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is “a question for a later time.”
“We are taking a very hard look at what it is that Ukraine needs for the immediate phase of the war that we’re in,” Sullivan said:
“And this phase of the war requires tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, artillery, tactical air defense systems, so that Ukrainian fighters can retake territory that Russia currently occupies.
“F-16s are a question for a later time. And that’s why President Biden said that, for now, he’s not moving forward with those.
“So, as far as we’re concerned, the U.S. effort has got to be to get Ukraine the tools it needs for the mission at hand. And the mission at hand is to have a successful counteroffensive where Ukraine is able to take back its own territory, away from the hands of the Russians.”
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sullivan was asked directly if the United States will help Ukraine retake Crimea, if that’s what Ukraine decides to do:
“The critical thing right now is that they need to take back the territory in the south and the east that they are currently focused on,” Sullivan said. “And we need to give them the tools to be able to do that.
“The question of Crimea, and the question of what happens down the road, is something that we will come to. Where we are right now is that we need to be focused on the immediate term, because it is critical that we move fast and we move decisively to help them take back the territory across that line of contact that Russian troops are currently occupying.”
Neither Biden nor Sullivan is putting any deadlines on the fighting:
“I can level with the American people in saying that war is unpredictable,” Sullivan said:
“One year ago, we were all bracing for the fall of Kyiv in a matter — in a matter of days. One year later, Joe Biden was standing with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv declaring that Kyiv stands.
“So, I cannot predict the future, and nor can anyone else. And anyone who is suggesting they can define for you how and when this war will end is not leveling with the American people or anyone else.
“What I can say is that the United States is going to continue to marshal this wide international coalition of countries to provide Ukraine with the tools that it needs to defend itself and to take back territory that the Russians have occupied. And we are prepared to do that. We have the staying power for that. We have proven we can sustain unity.
“We have proven that we can sustain this level of effort. And President Biden went to Kyiv to indicate that our support will be unwavering.”
Host Dana Bash asked Sullivan, “If Ukraine decided that victory means recapturing Crimea militarily, would the United States support that?” Putin annexed Crime in 2014, during the Obama/Biden administration.
“Dana, I can’t give a yes-or-no answer to what is a hypothetical question,” Sullivan replied:
“Right now, what President Zelenskyy is focused on is getting into the best possible position on the battlefield, so that he can be in the best possible position at the negotiating table. And he spoke as recently as this week about diplomacy.
“We want to help Ukraine turn battlefield gains into diplomatic leverage. And that requires us to give them the military assistance they need to make those gains. What ultimately happens with Crimea in the context of this war and a settlement of this war is something for the Ukrainians to determine, with the support of the United States.
“But I’m just not going to get into hypothetical questions, because what we’re facing today is a counteroffensive in the east and the south that we need to give them the tools to fight, and we are doing that.”
Sullivan, asked about the possibility that China might send lethal aid to Russia, said, “We haven’t seen them do it yet.”
“We actually haven’t seen them take a final decision to provide the aid to Russia. And we haven’t seen the aid be provided to Russia.
“So, we will watch carefully, we will be vigilant, and we will continue to send a strong message that we believe that sending military aid to Russia at this time, when they are using their weapons to bombard cities, kill civilians and commit atrocities, would be a bad mistake, and China should want no part of it,” Sullivan said.
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