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NATO Leaders Vow to Strengthen Ukraine’s Air Power with American-Made F-16s

Zelensky welcomes the delivery, saying 'America doesn’t shy away from its friends'

NATO Leaders Vow to Strengthen Ukraine’s Air Power with American-Made F-16s

Multiple NATO countries have pledged to deliver F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine as member nations double down on support for Kyiv in its war with Russia.

In a joint statement issued with Dutch Prime Minister Dick Schoof and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, President Joe Biden announced that The Netherlands and Denmark are “in the process of donating American-made F-16s to Ukraine,” a move likely to provoke an angry response from Moscow.

“The transfer process for these F-16s is now underway, and Ukraine will be flying operational F-16s this summer,” the statement reads. “We are unable to provide additional details at this time due to operational security concerns.”

The announcement, made during this week’s NATO summit in Washington, comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with Western officials for more weapons with fewer restrictions, requesting expedited deliveries.

“America doesn’t shy away from its friends. It is America that keeps the freedom,” he said.

The new F-16 agreement also comes just a day after Biden promised to provide Ukraine with five strategic air defense systems — NASAMS, HAWKs, IRIS T-SLM, IRIS T-SLS, and Gepard systems.

“It’s time to step out of the shadows, to make strong decisions work, to act and not to wait for November or any other month. To this end, we must be strong and uncompromising altogether,” Zelensky added. “And first of all, America, and first of all, the leaders of America, and the president of the United States as a leader of the free world, to be uncompromising in defending democracy. Uncompromising against Putin and his country. Uncompromising to every possible terror.”

The White House reiterated its commitment to “further enhancing Ukraine’s air capabilities, which will include squadrons of modern fourth-generation F-16 multi-role aircraft.” The coalition will also provide support, armaments, and training for Ukrainian pilots.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Those jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer to make sure that Ukraine can continue to effectively defend itself against the Russian aggression.”

This week, Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss ways to “strengthen Ukraine’s ties” to NATO.

Blinken, Czech President Petr Pavel, Finnish President Alexander Stubb, and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo all used the word “irreversible” to describe Ukraine's future NATO membership.“I think it’s very important to give a message to the Kremlin from here — that Ukraine’s path and bridge towards NATO membership is now irreversible,” Stubb told reporters.

Russian leaders, however, say the current discussions and promises of NATO membership are purely political theater.

"No one is going to admit Ukraine to NATO at this summit,” said Andrey Bystritsky, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

“There will be no solutions related to admission, guarantees, deadlines,” he added. “However, the summit participants will make statements: a very tricky cocktail of declarations, propaganda and so on. That is, this is a typical Western-style political event. There is a great distance between words and deeds.”

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