The Biden administration has given approval for the Netherlands to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, dealing a major win for the Ukrainian military.
Dutch Foreign Minister Kajsa Ollongren wrote in a post on the social media platform X, “I welcome the US decision to clear the way for delivery of F-16 jets to Ukraine. It allows us to follow through on the training of Ukrainian pilots. We remain in close contact with European partners to decide on the next steps.”
I welcome the US decision to clear the way for delivery of F-16 jets to Ukraine. It allows us to follow through on the training of Ukrainian pilots.
— Kajsa Ollongren (@DefensieMin) August 18, 2023
The delivery of fighter F-16s is a sharp about-face by President Joe Biden, who had previously rejected requests for fighters.
Ukrainian officials have provided the U.S. a list of 32 pilots its military says are ready for flight training, but only eight have high enough English proficiency to complete training, POLITICO reported. The other 24 must undergo English language training prior to training on the jets.
The Netherlands is part of a Western coalition that has pledged to train Ukranian pilots to fly F-16s. The alliance includes: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Approval of the fighter jets transfer comes the same week officials provided grim numbers about the casualties both Ukrainian and Russian forces are suffering as a result of the conflict.
Since the conflict began roughly 18 months ago, nearly half a million Ukrainian and Russian troops have been killed or wounded, according to military officials who spoke with the New York Times. Russian casualties are nearing 300,000, including as many as 120,000 deaths and up to 180,000 injured troops. The officials said roughly 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, with up to 120,000 wounded.
“The U.S. is prepared to support the training effort in coordination with the coalition, and is willing to host training for Ukrainian pilots within the U.S. if the capacity of training is reached in Europe,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said in a statement quoted by CBS News.
Earlier in the year, Russia warned of “enormous risks” associated with providing fighter jets to Ukraine, which Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister called an “escalation scenario.”