NATO is not involved in Ukraine conflict Stolenberg says

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FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visits Ramstein U.S. Air Base, Germany, April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Heiko Becker/File Photo

NATO will not become a party to the conflict by training Ukrainian pilots in Western F-16 fighter jets, while allies promise to accelerate preparations to begin training, NATO chief Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said Ukraine has the right to defend itself.

“We are helping Ukraine defend this right,” he told reporters in Brussels. “This does not mean that NATO and NATO allies are parties to the conflict.”

Senior Russian diplomats said on Monday that the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise questions about NATO’s role in the conflict.

US President Joe Biden on Friday endorsed a training program for Ukraine’s F-16 pilots. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it clear to Biden that he will not use aircraft to invade Russian territory.

“This is obviously an important step that will allow us to deliver fighters at some point,” Stoltenberg said, noting that the step is “for us to be there for the long term and for Russia to wait for us.” It’s a very clear signal that we can’t do that.”

On the other hand, the fighter alliances of each country were working on formulating a concrete schedule for the start of training.

“Now that the green light has been given, we will act faster,” Dutch Defense Minister Kaisa Orongren told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with EU countries in Brussels.

He said the exercise was a coordinated effort by Belgium, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and other allies, with more countries likely to participate. Germany said it was looking at ways to help the fighter coalition.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said: “We are looking at several options that are theoretically available.”

“But we don’t have our own F-16 fighter jets, and they probably won’t do much for training pilots, so that doesn’t matter.”