NATO Secretary General explains "dilemma" in supply of F-16s to Ukraine

Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Getty Images
Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Getty Images
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is unable to specify the timeframe for the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, pointing out that the pilots must be ready to fly them.

Source: Jens Stoltenberg, in an interview for Radio Liberty on 20 February

Quote: "It's impossible to say exactly when, because it's a dilemma. We all want the F-16s there as early as possible. At the same time, of course, the better trained the pilots, the more effective the F-16s will be. And not only the pilots, but also the technical maintenance, the personnel and all the support systems that need to be available…

We need to listen to the military experts regarding exactly when we will be ready, or when the allies will be ready, to start sending and delivering F-16s.

The sooner, the better. At the same time, it must be an effective weapon with well-trained pilots and good maintenance systems in place when we provide this mechanism to Ukraine."

Details: Asked whether the fighter jets will be sent with restrictions on striking Russian territory, Stoltenberg noted that it is up to the allies that supply the aircraft to decide.

He explained that there are different positions on this issue.

Quote: "Different allies have slightly different policies in this regard. But in general… this is armed aggression by Russia against Ukraine in gross violation of international law. According to national law, Ukraine has the right to defend itself. And that includes striking legitimate military targets – Russian military targets beyond the territory of Ukraine. This is international law."


  • At a regular meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, also known as Ramstein, on 14 February, Ukraine's partners reported on the progress made in training Ukrainian pilots and sending Western fighter jets to Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umierov said after the meeting: "Everything is on schedule within the framework of all the agreements with [our] partners."

  • The F-16s are expected to arrive in Ukraine in the spring; Natalia Halibarenko, Head of Ukraine’s Mission to NATO, has said this is a realistic deadline.

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the fighter jets can be delivered "on schedule", and that there will be at least 24 aircraft.

  • Denmark and the Netherlands were the first countries to pledge to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but said this would happen after the Ukrainian pilots had completed their training. Norway and Belgium have said the same.

  • The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly stated that the appearance of Western fighter jets in Ukraine could be a game-changer on the battlefield, as Russia currently has "complete air superiority" in the occupied territories.

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