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NATO begins sending F-16 jets in new support for Ukraine

At the NATO summit in Washington, USA president Joe Biden and allies announced the start of F-16 jet transfers to Ukraine and reiterated promises of future NATO membership.

Published July 11,2024

NATO allies on Wednesday announced they had started transferring F-16 jets to Ukraine while stepping up promises to Kyiv on eventual membership in the alliance, at a 75th anniversary summit clouded by political uncertainties in the United States.

With the pomp of the three-day gathering in the US capital, President Joe Biden is aiming to rally the West and also reassure voters amid pre-election scrutiny of whether at 81 -- six years older than NATO itself -- he remains fit for the job.

Biden individually welcomed the other 31 leaders of the alliance before urging them to keep pace with Russia's military production, which has stepped up sharply in the two years since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

"We can -- and will -- defend every inch of NATO territory and we'll do it together," Biden told the North Atlantic Council, the formal decision-making body of the alliance, at Washington's convention center as the city sweltered under a heat wave.

Biden announced that Denmark and the Netherlands had begun sending US-made F-16 jets to Ukraine -- making good on a key promise last year to Kyiv, which has struggled to gain parity in the air with Russia.

He earlier announced new air defense systems for Ukraine and said the United States had agreed to place long-range missiles periodically in Germany.

In the evening Biden hosted the NATO leaders for a gala dinner, marked by storm clouds that forced the cancellation of a planned flypast.

Biden compared the alliance to his childhood neighborhood, saying: "When a neighbor needed help, you pitched in. When the bullies threatened the block, you stepped up."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the F-16 transfer "concentrates Vladimir Putin's mind on the fact that he will not outlast Ukraine, he will not outlast us."

But White House challenger Donald Trump, who is edging out Biden in polls leading up to November's presidential election, has mused about bringing a quick peace settlement by pushing Ukraine to surrender territory to Russia.

The Republican mogul has repeatedly questioned the utility of NATO -- formed in 1949 as collective defense against Moscow -- which he sees as an unfair burden on the United States.