A senior Russian official on Saturday warned that Western countries were running “colossal risks” if they supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.
“We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russia’s semi-official Tass news agency, in response to a question on the possible supply of the US-made planes to Ukraine.
“In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set,” he added.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden announced his support for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters, a precursor to eventually providing those aircraft to Ukraine.
The green light on F-16 training is the latest shift by the Biden administration as it moves to arm Ukraine with more advanced and lethal weaponry, following earlier decisions to send rocket launcher systems and Abrams tanks. The US has insisted that it is sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and has discouraged attacks by Ukraine into Russian territory.
Read more: US helping Ukraine get F-16s shows that for military aid, ‘no’ can become ‘yes’
Ukraine has pressed for Western jets since the very earliest stages of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, insisting that the sophisticated aircraft would give them a leg up in the war and allow them to strike Russian forces.
Ukraine’s leaders have argued that the F-16 is far superior to their existing fleet of Soviet-era warplanes.
Biden’s decisions on when, how many, and who will provide the fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets will be made in the months ahead while the training is underway, the US president told leaders of the G7 countries at a summit in Japan.
The G7 leaders have rolled out a new wave of global sanctions on Moscow as well as plans to enhance the effectiveness of existing financial penalties meant to constrain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort.