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Putin Threatens To Attack Western Air Bases Hosting Ukrainian F-16s

Putin Threatens To Attack Western Air Bases Hosting Ukrainian F-16s

This week Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Torzhok air base in Tver Region which hosts the 344th Training Center for Russian combat pilots. Some or many of these aviators who will likely go on to fly missions in Ukraine.

In an address to the pilots, Putin referenced accusations frequently voiced by Western leaders that he intends to expand the war in Ukraine by attacking NATO and other European countries. He called the claim “utter nonsense” but went on to issue a warning about US-made F16 fighters jets.

Describing that US “satellites” in Eastern Europe (for example, Poland) have no reason to be afraid, he said, “The claims that we are going to attack Europe after Ukraine – it is utter nonsense and intimidation of their own population just to beat the money out of them.”

European countries have indeed been seeking to ramp up their defense sectors and spending, especially following two years of arming Ukraine which has largely depleted domestic stockpiles.

A translation in Politico quoted Putin as further saying “…the possibility of an attack on some other countries, on Poland, the Baltic states, the Czechs are scared. It’s just nonsense,” and that Russia has “no aggressive intentions toward these states.”

The Russian president further reiterated in the talk that the special military operation in Ukraine was launched out of the necessity of “protecting our people on our historical territories.” Referring to the NATO alliance, he said: “They came right up to our borders… Did we go across the ocean to the borders of the United States? No, they are approaching us, and they have come very close,” according to a Russian media translation.

Putin also took the opportunity to address international reports that Kiev will soon be given its first batch of F-16 fighter jets. According to his words as summarized in EuroNews:

At the same meeting, he warned Ukraine’s Western allies against providing air bases in their countries from where the F-16s could launch sorties against the Kremlin’s forces, saying those bases would be a “legitimate target.”

The F-16s require a high standard of runways and reinforced hangars to protect them when they are on the ground.

Military analysts have said the arrival of potentially dozens of F-16s won’t be a game-changer, though Ukrainian officials have welcomed them as an opportunity to hit back at Russia’s air dominance. Putin insisted the F-16s “won’t change the situation on the battlefield.”

That’s when he vowed before the pilots and trainees, “We will destroy their warplanes just as we destroy their tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers.” Significantly, he upped the ante with this threat, given he made clear that even bases in Western countries could be targeted if Ukraine flies sorties from them.

At the military training center in Torzhok, Tver Region, March 27. Pool via Sputnik

State-run RT has also sought to emphasize this in relaying Putin’s words in the following:

F-16s flown by Ukrainian pilots but based in third countries will nevertheless be legitimate targets for Russia, Putin added.

“Of course, if they are used from airfields of third countries, they become a legitimate target for us, wherever they are located,” he said.

Beginning last summer the Kremlin began highlighting that F-16 fighter jets are capable of carrying tactical nukes which are in select NATO countries’ possession. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for example at that time explained, “Moscow can’t ignore the nuclear capability of US-designed F-16 fighter jets that may be supplied to Ukraine by its Western backers. He went so far as to say that it will be seen as a threat from the West “in the nuclear domain.”


Thu, 03/28/2024 – 20:00

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