NATO begins sending F-16 in new support for Ukraine

Afp July 11, 2024


NATO allies announced Wednesday they had started the long-promised transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine as leaders meet for a summit in Washington clouded by political uncertainties in the United States.

With the pomp of the three-day gathering in the US capital, President Joe Biden is aiming to rally the West and also reassure US voters amid pre-election scrutiny on whether at 81 -- six years older than the alliance -- he remains fit for the job.

Biden individually welcomed the other 31 leaders of the alliance before urging them to keep pace with Russia's military production which has stepped up sharply in the two years since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

"We can -- and will -- defend every inch of NATO territory and we'll do it together," Biden told the North Atlantic Council, the formal decision-making body of the alliance, convened in an air-conditioned convention center as Washington sweltered in a heat wave.

Biden announced that Denmark and the Netherlands had begun sending US-made F-16 jets to Ukraine -- making good on a key promise last year to Kyiv, which has struggled to gain parity in the air with Russia.

Biden earlier announced new air defense systems for Ukraine and said the United States had agreed to place long-range missiles periodically in Germany.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the F-16 transfer "concentrates Vladimir Putin's mind on the fact that he will not outlast Ukraine, he will not outlast us and, if he persists, the damage that will continue to be done to Russia and its interests will only deepen."

"The quickest way to get to peace is through a strong Ukraine," Blinken said. But Donald Trump, who is edging out Biden in recent polls, has mused about bringing a quick peace settlement by forcing Ukraine to surrender territory to Russia.

The Republican mogul has repeatedly questioned the utility of NATO -- formed in 1949 as collective defense against Moscow -- which he sees as an unfair burden on the United States.

On the eve of the summit, Russia fired a barrage of missiles on Ukraine, killing dozens, including in Kyiv where a children's hospital was reduced to debris. 


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