The Netherlands and Denmark welcomed the U.S. approval for them to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine but the training of pilots and delivery of the planes are unlikely to be completed until next year.
The two European countries, both members of NATO, confirmed on Friday that they received the U.S. green light after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his counterparts in the two capitals assuring them of the approval.
Blinken expressed that the approval would allow Ukraine to take "full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first set of pilots completes their training".
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren welcomed the U.S. decision "to clear the way for delivery of F-16 jets to Ukraine", which she said would allow the international coalition "to follow through on the training of Ukrainian pilots".
A coalition of 11 countries agreed at the NATO summit in July to train Ukrainians to fly F-16 jets, which will start this month in Denmark and then in Romania after a training center is built. But the Netherlands Times reported on Friday that the first Ukrainian pilots will probably complete their training in the summer of next year and Ukraine is unlikely to receive any F-16s until next year.
"We welcome Washington's decision to pave the way for sending#F16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine ….Now we will further discuss the subject with our European partners," Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday.
"The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training. We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that," Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told Ritzau news agency on Friday.
Ukraine has been seeking F-16 jets for months to help it counter Russian air superiority in the conflict that began in February last year.
U.S. President Joe Biden, worried about a major escalation with Russia, had ruled out sending F-16 jets to Ukraine in late January. However, he changed his stance in May, agreeing to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 planes.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko earlier warned Western nations of "enormous risks "if Ukraine is provided with F-16 jets.
"It involves enormous risks for themselves. In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the set goals," TASS news agency quoted him as saying.