Russian officials are warning that a decision by Denmark and the Netherlands to send F-16s to Ukraine will escalate Russia’s war against its neighboring nation.
The U.S. gave the two allied NATO member nations the go-ahead to send F-16s to Ukraine late last week. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking for the U.S.-made fighter jets for months, and after first hesitating, President Biden told Group of Seven (G-7) leaders at their summit in May that his Administration would support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16s.
“The fact that Denmark has now decided to donate 19 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine leads to an escalation of the conflict,” Russian Ambassador to Denmark Vladimir Barbin said in a statement to Ritzau, a Danish news agency.
The ambassador added, “By hiding behind a premise that Ukraine itself must determine the conditions for peace, Denmark seeks with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no other choice but to continue the military confrontation with Russia.”
Ukrainian officials have said the F-16s will be vital to their ramped-up counteroffensive’s aim of driving Russian forces from occupied Ukrainian territory, as it would prevent Russian fighter jets attacking advancing forces.
Zelesnky posted on social media Sunday, “F-16s will instill fresh confidence and motivation in both warriors and ordinary citizens. They will produce fresh results for Ukraine and the rest of Europe.”
It’s not the first time Russia has threatened to escalate the war over Western military aid to Ukraine. In January, Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, threatened Europe and the U.S. with “global catastrophe” over continued military support. His rhetoric included threatening the use of nuclear weapons.
One month earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova had threatened “an escalation of the conflict” if the U.S. sent Patriot missile systems to Ukraine—which the U.S. provided in April.
While one Patriot missile defense system was reported damaged—though not destroyed—in May by a Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile in May, Zelensky has claimed “significant results” for Ukraine’s air defense due to the Patriot as well as the German IRIS-T defense systems.