Stoltenberg: Delivering F-16s to Ukraine Does Not Make NATO Party to Conflict

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of NATO, has welcomed the decision to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, emphasising that providing them does not make NATO a party to war with Russia.

The NATO Secretary-General notes that the decision to train Ukrainian pilots "also allows for a later decision on the supply" of F-16s, which member states of the "fighter jet coalition" will have to decide on individually.

"This is an important step that apparently will enable us to then deliver fighter jets (to Ukraine – ed.) at some stage. But it is a clear signal that we are there for the long term and that Russia cannot wait us out," Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of the EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg reiterated that Ukraine has the right to self-defence against full-scale Russian aggression, and NATO is assisting Ukraine.

"We help Ukraine to uphold that right. That's our right, to help them (Ukrainians – ed.) protect UN law, international law, against the war of aggression. That doesn't make NATO, NATO Allies, parties to the conflict. But we are supporting Ukraine to defend themselves against a war of aggression, brutal invasion by President Putin," the Secretary-General concluded.

Last week, the United Kingdom announced the creation of an international coalition of countries to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter jets, including the F-16. It includes the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, the United States, and Portugal.

The US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall stated that delivering F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would take "several months at best."

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