Russia: F-16 Transfer to Ukraine Raises NATO Question


Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, has issued a warning following US President Joe Biden’s agreement to provide training to Ukrainian pilots on fighter jets. Antonov stated that the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise questions about NATO’s involvement in the conflict. He added that there is currently no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine, and there is a shortage of pilots and maintenance personnel. Antonov also questioned what would happen if American fighters took off from NATO airfields controlled by foreign “volunteers.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been calling on Western allies to supply advanced fighter jets for months, but concerns have been raised that such a move could escalate tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced they had agreed to build an “international coalition” to provide fighter jet support for Ukraine. President Biden endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, with Zelenskyy assuring him that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory. However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned that Western countries would be running “colossal risks” if they went ahead with the supply of the F-16s. Antonov added that any Ukrainian attack on Crimea would be considered an attack on Russia and that the US should be fully aware of the Russian response. Air defence experts say US-built F-16 fighter jets would offer Ukraine an edge over the Russian air force, but only if combined with powerful missiles and targeting information, which the West would also have to provide and which would risk drawing Ukraine’s Western allies more actively into the war.