Supporting Ukraine by training pilots on F-16 fighter jets “does not make NATO and NATO allies party to the conflict,” the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels ahead of an EU defense ministers meeting, the alliance chief welcomed the decision by several NATO allies to start training Ukrainian pilots on F16 fighter jets.
“This is an important step that partly will enable us to then deliver fighter jets at some stage but also sending a very clear signal that we are there for the long term and that Russia cannot wait us out,” he said.
Stoltenberg continued to say that “the right of self-defense is enshrined in the UN charter. We help Ukraine to uphold that right. That is our right to help them protect UN law, international law, against the war of aggression. That doesn’t make NATO and NATO allies party to the conflict, but we are supporting Ukraine to defend themselves against a war of aggression, a brutal invasion by President Putin.”
Some background: President Joe Biden informed G7 leaders Friday that the US supports a joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth generation aircraft, including F-16s, a senior administration official told CNN.
Following Biden's backing of Ukrainian pilots training to fly F-16s, Russia’s deputy foreign minister warned Western countries of “enormous risks” if Ukraine is provided with F-16 fighter jets, Russian state media TASS reported Saturday.
"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," Alexander Grushko said.
CNN's Darya Tarasova and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this post.