British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have agreed to work to form an “international coalition” to ship American-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
A spokesperson for Sunak said Tuesday that the two leaders would “work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F-16 jets.”
The spokesperson said Sunak “reiterated his belief that Ukraine’s rightful place is in Nato, and the leaders agreed on the importance of allies providing long-term security assistance to Ukraine to guarantee they can deter against future attacks.”
Sunak expressed support for sending F-16s to Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Britain on Monday and said the UK would begin training Ukrainian pilots this summer. The UK doesn’t have F-16s in its air force, but some European countries do, including the Netherlands.
“We’re very keen to build that coalition of countries to give Volodymyr and his people the aircraft support they need,” Sunak said during Zelensky’s visit.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that a senior US official said the Biden administration is still reluctant to provide F-16s. But the official didn’t rule out the US approving a re-export license of the F-16s the US has sold to European countries. Other F-16 armed nations that have signaled they would be willing to send the planes include Belgium and Denmark.
NATO countries have yet to provide Western-made aircraft to Kyiv, which would mark a significant escalation of the alliance’s involvement in the war. Poland and Slovakia recently shipped their Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, a step the US opposed in the early days of the war over concerns that Russia would view such support as the alliance directly entering the war.
The British have been leading the charge to escalate support for Ukraine, which risks provoking a response from Russia. The UK recently began delivering Storm Shadow cruise missiles and depleted uranium ammunition. Britain was also the first country to pledge Western-made heavy tanks.