On Monday, senior Russian diplomats warned that transferring F-16s to Ukraine will call into question NATO’s role in the conflict but would not undermine Russia’s military goals in the region, Reuters reported.
While at the G7 economic summit in Hiroshima, Japan last Friday, President Biden said he approved a plan to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. The president told reporters that he was assured by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the fighter jets would not be used to launch attacks inside Russia.
In response to the news, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov described the transfer of F-16s as “absolutely pointless and stupid,” according to the Russian state-owned news agency RIA. Ryabkov said the effort would be “completely useless and meaningless” given that Russia has the capabilities to achieve “all the goals” in its operation in Ukraine.
In remarks published on the Russian Embassy’s Telegram channel, the Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said Ukraine lacks the infrastructure, pilots, and maintenance crews to operate F-16s. He questioned the logistics of having the American fighter jets take off from “NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’.”
Ambassador Antonov also warned the United States that any strike on Crimea would be considered a strike on Russian soil, explaining that the US must be “fully aware of the Russian response.”
The ambassador also accused the United States of using the G7 summit to subjugate the other G7 members “to its own policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine.” He said that the US was seeking a “strategic defeat” of Russia.
During last week’s summit, the G7 countries signaled their long-term support for Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Newsweek published an article quoting several experts who discussed whether the shipment of F-16s to Ukraine might cross a red line and cause Russia to retaliate by expanding the conflict to the West.