Putin Issues F-16 Warning

Vladimir Putin has said that Russian forces will destroy any F-16s delivered to Ukraine from its NATO allies “wherever they are,” while at the same time insisting that Moscow had no intention of attacking any country in the alliance.

Last August, Washington finally authorized allies to give Kyiv the U.S.-made planes, whose more modern avionics and radars hand extra capabilities to Ukraine’s Air Force which relies on Soviet-era MiG and Sukhoi jets.

A group of 14 countries has pledged to deliver the aircraft and help with training. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday the aircraft should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin visits the 344th Army Aviation Centre in Torzhok in the Tver region on March 27, 2024. He said that Western-supplied F16s to Ukraine would be destroyed by Russia.


During a visit to the 344th Army Aviation Centre where combat pilots are trained, in Torzhok, 160 miles northwest of Moscow, Putin was asked if Russian pilots would be “allowed to hit these targets at NATO airfields.”

Putin replied: “Of course, if they are used from airfields of third countries, they become a legitimate target for us, no matter where they are.

“We will destroy their planes in the same way that we destroy their tanks, armored vehicles, and other equipment, including multiple launch rocket systems,” he said, according to a transcript on the Kremlin website.

“The F-16s are also carriers of nuclear weapons, and we will also have to take this into account when organizing combat work,” but he insisted that the aircraft delivery “will not change anything on the battlefield.”

During the same question-and-answer session, Putin appeared to contradict this by rejecting the prospect of Russia attacking a NATO country.

President Joe Biden warned in December that Putin would strike at NATO, a sentiment shared by other Western leaders and chairman of the alliance’s military committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, who spoke in January about the inevitability of war with Russia.

On March 17, Putin said that Russia could face NATO in a full-scale conflict and that “anything is possible in today’s world” but the mixed messaging continued when he rejected such a prospect on Wednesday.

“It’s complete nonsense the possibility of an attack on some other countries, on Poland, the Baltic states, and elsewhere,” Putin said.

Russia has framed the full-scale invasion as a proxy war between Moscow and NATO, and Putin rehashed Kremlin rhetoric about the alliance causing the war, although he again rejected Western statements that he would look to attack other countries after Ukraine.

He noted the discrepancy in military budgets between the U.S., which spent $811 billion in 2022, and the Russian outlay on defense of $72 billion.

“With this ratio in mind, are we going to fight NATO?” he said, ” this is just nonsense.” Newsweek has contacted NATO for comment.