Putin will not attack Nato but warns F-16 jets could be shot down

President Vladimir Putin has made a thinly veiled threat to the West over supplying jets to Ukraine
Vladimir Putin has made a thinly veiled threat to the West over supplying jets to Ukraine - Mikhail Metzel/Pool Sputnik Kremlin

Russia will not attack Nato, but Western bases hosting F-16 fighter jets destined for Ukraine would be “legitimate targets”, Vladimir Putin has warned.

“We have no aggressive intentions towards these states,” the Russian president told a group of air force pilots while on a visit to a training centre.

“The idea that we will attack some other country – Poland, the Baltic States, and the Czechs – is complete nonsense. It’s just drivel,” he added.

However, if F-16 aircraft supplied to Ukraine take off from airfields in “third countries”, they could be shot down, Putin said.

Fears that Russia is planning to launch an attack on a Nato member state have grown since the invasion of Ukraine.

Most recently, Denmark’s defence minister warned last month Russia could go to war with Nato in as little as three years.

Ukraine has called for the West to supply it with F-16s for months, with the United States finally agreeing to allow deliveries of the jets in August, swiftly followed by Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

The aircraft are seen as crucial for protecting against Moscow’s development of modified Soviet-era “glide bombs”, which it used to devastating effect last month to seize Avdiivka – Russia’s most significant territorial advance since the capture of Bakhmut in 2022.

Asked whether the provision of F-16s could tilt the balance of the war, Putin said such aircraft would not change the situation in Ukraine.

“If they supply F-16s, and they are talking about this and are apparently training pilots, this will not change the situation on the battlefield,” he said.

“And we will destroy the aircraft just as we destroy tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers.”

Putin’s remarks followed comments earlier in the day by Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, that the aircraft should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

A coalition of countries has promised to help train Ukrainian pilots in their use, with Romania last week giving the green light for about 50 airmen to start training at a newly built base.