Dutch PM Mark Rutte sets out 'intention' to send Patriots to Ukraine

Netherlands set to follow the US and Germany by sending air-defence missiles to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden, right, meets Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. AP
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte met US President Joe Biden on Tuesday and signalled his “intention” to follow Germany in its delivery of American-made Patriot air-defence missiles to Ukraine.

“We have the intention to join what you're doing with Germany on the Patriots project, the air-defence system. I think that is important and we joined that,” Mr Rutte told Mr Biden at the White House.

He added that he had “discussed it also this morning” with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Germany announced on January 5 that it would follow the US in sending one of the advanced missile defence batteries to Ukraine.

Mr Rutte cited the “terrible footage” of an apartment building destroyed by a powerful Russian missile in the city of Dnipro on Saturday, saying the “these are horrible pictures and I think it strengthens even more our resolve to stay with Ukraine”.

Mr Biden praised the Dutch contribution to a US-led western alliance supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion and said: “Russia is continuing to act in ways that are almost unbelievable.”

The White House said that Mr Biden also talked by phone Tuesday with Mr Scholz, saying only they “discussed their steadfast support to Ukraine and condemned Russia's aggression”.

They also “discussed their ongoing assistance to Ukraine”, the White House said in a statement.

US Patriot missiles — in pictures

On Tuesday, Mr Scholz said he was in talks with allies over potentially supplying heavy tanks to Ukraine, but cautioned that any announcements would have to come in lockstep with others.

“I am always thinking about the situation,” Mr Scholz said in an interview on Tuesday.

“We always act together with our allies and friends — we never go alone.”

Mr Scholz has been under pressure from allies to send German-made heavy Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv in the event that fighting intensifies in the spring.

The Chancellor has been criticised for his cautiousness in holding back from supplying heavy weapons, arguing that would risk provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin into escalating the conflict.

He won some respite earlier this month with an agreement to send 40 Marder combat vehicles and a Patriot air-defence system to Ukraine as part of a joint announcement with the US, yet the calls for more powerful Leopard tanks have continued.

“We are supporting Ukraine for as long as necessary with all the means that we can use,” Mr Scholz said He added that the aim is to “avoid that this is going to be a war between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation”.

Drones and weapons supplied to Ukraine — in pictures

The UK on Saturday became the first country to confirm it would send its battle tanks to Ukraine, and European officials who deal with Berlin have said they expect Germany to follow suit in the near future.

The government is expected to make a decision on tanks before a meeting of senior defence officials from allied nations on Friday at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany.

Mr Scholz emphasised that Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine before any negotiations happen, and that Germany would support Kyiv for as long as necessary.

“I am very happy that the Ukrainian President [Volodymyr Zelenskyy] is ready for peace,” Mr Scholz said.

“Russia has to do something which they are as far as we see not ready to do and this is withdrawing troops — we are waiting for that.”

Russia and Ukraine conflict latest — in pictures

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the German Chancellor abandoned Berlin’s postwar policy of not sending lethal weapons into combat zones and earmarked €100 billion ($108 billion) to modernise the armed forces on top of an increase in annual defence spending that is set to reach Nato’s target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product next year.

The government is in position to unlock dozens of German-made Leopard tanks for Ukraine, which could significantly boost Kyiv’s capabilities.

Twelve other European countries have Leopards in their arsenals, but they need Berlin’s approval before they can transfer the tanks.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 5:28 AM