On 20 August 2023, Mark Rutte informed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Netherlands will supply F-16s to Ukraine. The Ukrainian president arrived at Eindhoven Air Base in the morning for a visit of only a few hours. He was received at the military site by Prime Minister Rutte and ministers Kajsa Ollongren (Defence) and Wopke Hoekstra (Foreign Affairs).
Rutte said that although the war was being fought on Ukrainian territory, it was not limited to that nation because the values at stake are ones shared by the Netherlands and other countries. The prime minister went on to say that that feeling of shared values is widespread, hence the strong international support for Ukraine.
Zelenskyy had visited the Netherlands in May. He was informed during that visit that the Netherlands intended to train Ukrainian military personnel to operate F-16s. However, as Rutte explained, such training would serve no purpose if there were no F-16s to actually operate. In other words, training also means delivery of the fighter aircraft.
The number of aircraft concerned and the time at which they will be delivered were not made known. A number of preconditions must be met before the Netherlands starts delivering F-16s to Ukraine. The infrastructure at Ukrainian airfields must be made suitable, for example. The number of Ukrainian military personnel who are trained to operate the F-16 must also be sufficient.
Logical and crucial step
Like Rutte, Ollongren again made it clear to Russia that the Netherlands will continue to assist Ukraine. The minister of defence stated that Ukraine deserves the support of the Netherlands for as long as necessary and that, in that context, the future use of F-16s from the Netherlands by Ukrainian pilots was a logical and crucial step. The minister concluded by saying that just as Ukraine will not give up, the Netherlands will remain steadfast in its support.
To date (reference date of 26 June 2023), the Netherlands has provided military support worth approximately 1.9 billion euros.