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EU nation to send first batch of F-16 jets to Kiev

Amsterdam has started preparations for the delivery of 18 combat aircraft to Ukraine, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said

The Netherlands is about to start preparing the first delivery of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday following a phone call with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

The EU nation is one of Kiev’s backers that pledged to provide it with the warplanes over the next few years, alongside Denmark, Norway, and Belgium.

Zelensky claimed in August that the Netherlands and Belgium together pledged 42 jets to his country, although a joint statement by the two nations does not mention any specific numbers.

On Friday, Rutte said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that the “initial” delivery would include 18 aircraft.

The prime minister also said earlier that his nation’s entire F-16 fleet consisted of 42 planes and that Amsterdam would need to keep some for its own training purposes.

On Friday, Zelensky thanked the Dutch prime minister in a post on X for his cabinet’s decision, adding that they also discussed “Ukraine’s current military needs, including artillery, drones, and air defense.”

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FILE PHOTO: Dutch Air Force F-16 fighters
EU state sends F-16 jets to train Ukrainian pilots

According to Rutte, “a number of … criteria must also still be met before [the] delivery can take place, including requirements for personnel and infrastructure.” The prime minister also admitted that his nation is yet to obtain an export permit from the US.

Washington had long been reluctant to consider supplying Kiev with Western-made fighter jets. In February, US President Joe Biden said that Ukraine did not need F-16s at that moment. “There is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military, now, to provide F-16s,” he said.

By summer, however, the US position had apparently changed as Washington eventually gave permission for Ukrainian pilots to train on F-16 jets and signaled that it was ready to approve a third-party transfer of the aircraft to Kiev once this training was complete.

Kiev has been pushing its Western backers to supply increasingly advanced weapons since the start of its conflict with Moscow, treating those arms as a game-changer in the conflict. Zelensky particularly praised the August F-16 pledge announcement as “historic, powerful, motivational.”

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky sits in an F-16 fighter jet in Vojens, Denmark.
US-made F-16s will survive just a few weeks in Ukraine – Moscow

Moscow has dismissed such ideas by saying that Western arms supplies only prolong the conflict and extend the human suffering without significantly affecting the situation on the front lines. In November, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the entire fleet of F-16s pledged to Kiev by Western donors could be destroyed in less than three weeks. The task of shooting down all those jets would amount to “roughly 20 days of work,” he said.

Western officials have started doubting Ukraine’s prospects in the ongoing conflict in the wake of its failed summer counteroffensive that led to minimal changes along the front lines despite Kiev’s heavy losses.

In December, US lawmakers said that neither Washington nor Kiev had presented a clear winning strategy following a meeting with Zelensky. Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville said he had “never thought” Kiev could “win.”

Earlier the same month, Politico reported that the UK was considering pushing Ukraine toward peace talks with Russia due to concerns about Kiev’s ability to score a battlefield victory.

December 23, 2023 at 12:23AM

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