The plans to provide US-designed F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine by its Western backers have been met with strong opposition from Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov believes that this development is “extremely dangerous” and can potentially lead to a direct armed confrontation with Russia. He argues that Russia cannot ignore the nuclear capability of these fighter jets, which poses a significant threat to their national security.
Lavrov expressed his concerns in an interview with Lenta.ru on Wednesday, emphasizing that the supply of F-16s to Ukraine is a provocative move by the West. He stated, “The very fact of the appearance of such systems within the Ukrainian Armed Forces will be considered by us as a threat from the West in the nuclear domain.” Lavrov further warned that in the midst of ongoing conflict, the Russian military cannot distinguish whether these jets are equipped to carry nuclear weapons or not, making the situation even more precarious.
To address these concerns, Lavrov disclosed that Russia has informed the nuclear powers, namely the US, UK, and France, about its apprehensions regarding the nuclear capabilities of the F-16s. However, he believes that no assurances from the West will be sufficient to alleviate their concerns.
The announcement that F-16s will be supplied to Ukraine comes amidst escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed the plans during the NATO summit in Vilnius, stating that the transfer of F-16s will most likely come from European countries with surplus supplies.
Denmark, in collaboration with a coalition of countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the UK, and Sweden, announced plans to train Ukrainian airmen to fly the F-16s in August. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba suggested that the first Ukrainian-piloted F-16s could be operational by the end of the first quarter of next year.
The Ukrainian government has been advocating for the acquisition of F-16s for months, arguing that these fighter jets are essential for providing air cover to their troops and safeguarding Ukrainian airspace. They claim that the ongoing Russian missile campaign targeting military facilities and energy infrastructure necessitates the need for advanced aircraft like the F-16s. Initially, the US and its allies rejected the idea of supplying F-16s, stating that they were not necessary for Ukraine. However, their position on the matter has shifted over time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his skepticism about the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine in June, stating that he has no doubt that these jets will meet the same fate as the tanks and other Western-supplied weapons in Ukraine.
As tensions continue to rise in the region, the supply of F-16s to Ukraine by its Western backers has sparked fears of a potential armed conflict with Russia. Both sides remain steadfast in their positions, raising concerns about the stability and security of the region. The international community closely watches this unfolding situation, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis.