Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Ukraine has received a “powerful offer” from countries that are willing to provide their American-made F-16 fighter jets.
Since President Biden approved the delivery of F-16s from Europe to Ukraine, it hasn’t been clear which countries will send the jets. European nations that are expected to arm Ukraine with their F-16s include the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, but they haven’t made a commitment.
Zelensky signaled that a deal on the aircraft will be reached soon. “Our partners know how many aircraft we need,” he said. “I have already received an understanding of the number from some of our European partners … It is a serious, powerful offer.”
The Ukrainian leader said he was waiting for a final agreement, including “a joint agreement with the United States.” The US has not made a final decision on whether or not it will send its own F-16s to Ukraine.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that F-16s can carry nuclear weapons and warned the provision of the aircraft was a major escalation of US and NATO involvement in the war. The White House brushed off Lavrov’s comments.
“The first thing I would say to Minister Lavrov is: If you’re worried about Ukrainian military capabilities, then you should take your troops and leave Ukraine,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Kirby also said the F-16s were part of “long-term” support for Ukraine as it could take months or years for them to be delivered. “It’ll take some time for those jets to get there. We’re going to start with a training program for Ukrainian pilots, and that hasn’t started yet,” he said.