Russia is warning the West of a “colossal risk” should nations supply F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, suggesting that it could raise the question of NATO’s role in the war.
President Biden on Friday told Group of Seven (G-7) leaders that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, an effort expected to start soon outside Ukraine at sites in Europe. Kyiv has not, however, gotten public commitments from any country for delivery of the jets.
But several Russian officials have since said the move risks elevating tensions further between Western nations and Russia.
“We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves,” said Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, according to state-run news agency Tass.
“It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response,” he said, stressing that an attack on the illegally annexed Crimea would be considered an attack on Russia.
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, meanwhile, claimed there was no infrastructure for Ukrainians to operate F-16s in the country, suggesting NATO pilots would step in to use the aircraft instead.
“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?” Antonov said on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel Monday.
And Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said the transfer of more advanced aircraft to Ukraine would be “absolutely pointless and stupid,” according to state-owned news agency RIA.
Ukrainian officials have pleaded for Western fighter jets such as the U.S.-made F-16 since Russia first invaded the country in February 2022.
The warplanes would give Kyiv a significant leg up in its air capabilities, as the country currently operates Soviet-era MiG-29 twin-engine fighters. The more advanced F-16 was previously considered off the table over fears it would escalate the conflict.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stressed to Biden that the F-16s would not enter Russian territory.
Biden on Sunday reiterated that promise, telling reporters he has received a “flat assurance” from Zelensky on the matter.
The fighter jets could be used “wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine and the area,” Biden told reporters in Hiroshima, Japan, at the conclusion of G-7.
Source : The Hill