Kajsa Ollongren, Minister of Defense of the Netherlands
We have to work on increasing defense production in Ukraine, Europe, and the U.S.
06.04.2024 12:40

In early April, the Netherlands signed a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, which, among other things, lays down EUR 2 billion in military aid for this year, as well as further defense assistance over the next 10 years. The Netherlands, together with the U.S. and Denmark, are leading the aviation capabilities coalition within the framework of the Ramstein format.

A few weeks ago, the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, Kajsa Ollongren, during a visit to Ukraine, announced a new aid package of EUR 350 million, which will fund the purchase of munitions for F-16s and hi-end reconnaissance drones. The Minister said the Netherlands intends to hand over the first batch of F-16 fighters to Ukraine in the second half of 2024.

An Ukrinform correspondent managed to have a blitz conversation with Kajsa Ollongren at the military air base in Leeuwarden, where the MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance and attack UAV was presented. In particular, the Minister spoke of how many F-16 jets will be donated to Ukraine and how, in her opinion, arms production for Ukraine should be increased.


- Thank you for doing this interview and for the invitation to visit the air base in Leeuwarden. Tell us about the MQ-9 Reaper that was unveiled today. What tasks does the UAV perform in Romania?

- This is the MQ-9 Reaper, an uncrewed plane. We are here in Leeuwarden, in the north of the Netherlands, and other such planes are currently in Romania, operating there for Netherlands and NATO, including to help us get the best possible picture of the situation over the Black Sea and on the border with Ukraine.

- In March, you visited Ukraine. You also saw the area where Russian missiles and drones hit the city of Dnipro and you also spoke with the Ukrainian military. Please share your impressions of your visit and what was its main purpose?

- I think it is very important to visit Ukraine regularly. So far, this has been my fifth visit. This time I went to Dnipro. It was only two weeks ago, and just a few days ago, Dnipro was hit and casualties were reported. And, of course, this is extremely impactful to see the Ukrainian people. I really admire courage and resilience of the Ukrainian military. When I was there, it was the start of a four- or five-day large-scale missile barrage spree by the Russians, targeting Kyiv and other cities. And that is the reality in Ukraine these days. So it is important to bring that picture back to the Netherlands, to show people what this war really is about and why Ukraine so desperately needs more ammunition, more air defense capabilities, because Russian aggression continues is ongoing and intensifying.

- Why is this war not only for Ukraine, and why is victory important not only for the Ukrainian people?

- You are absolutely right. This war that Ukraine is fighting is about freedom, democracy, rule of law, and standing against an illegal aggression. And that is why we are also committed to support Ukraine, and that is why we are doing everything we can to get the ammunition there, especially 155mm rounds, as soon as we can. We are working very hard to this end.


- What capabilities does Ukraine need to prevail against Russia?

- We are very well aware of the painful situation at the front, that there’s ammunition shortage. But will get there. And we also understand the importance of air defense, since Russia has been able to employ large numbers of missiles, drones, and aerial bombs, from which Ukraine has to protect its cities, citizens, and critical infrastructure.

- How does Russia manage to produce arms at such a pace?

- We know that Russia has switched to "war economy". On the part of the Netherlands, we have been engaging a lot with our industry to make sure they increase output, that we open new production lines, that we do joint procurements and seal large orders for Ukraine. Also, when I visited Ukraine, we discussed the possibilities of increasing production in Ukraine, which, of course, is the most efficient way in defense production. I think we have to try everything. We have to work on production in Ukraine, production in Europe, the United States, and other countries. We also have to see if we can find more existing stocks that can be used. So we are working on that from all possible angles.

- What do you think about Jens Stoltenberg's proposal to create a EUR 100 billion NATO fund for?

- We have to  study the details of the proposal by the NATO Secretary General.

We are now coordinating aid to Ukraine within the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the so-called Ramstein format. This is an ad hoc format as a reaction to Russia’s large-scale invasion. Unfortunately, maybe this war is going to take a long time so I’m always interested in strengthening the coordination of military aid to Ukraine. So I think this is a very interesting proposal and I look forward to discussing it in the NATO context.


- In February, you said Ukraine would receive an additional six F-16s from the Netherlands. So how many F-16s will your country donate? And when can we expect to get them?

- In total, we are going to give 24 F-16s. They will be transferred to Ukraine as soon as everything is in place and ready. That depends on the training of Ukrainian pilots and maintenance technicians, as well as, on infrastructure, of course. It’s a joint effort with Ukraine, but also with Denmark, the United States, and other countries. It's difficult, it’s complex, but we will get there. In the coalition we hope that by this summer we will have been able to start delivering the F-16s – first the Danish and then the Dutch.

- Is it true that you and Prime Minister Rutte personally asked the U.S. to help Ukraine with the F-16s?

- Let's say we have been discussing all possibilities with our partners and friends. I think what counts is that we have, together with the U.S. and Denmark, my opinion, what matters is that we have, together with the United States and Denmark, been able to take that decision, and from that moment onward, we've been working very hard to deliver this capability.

- Tell us please what did you feel on February 24, 2022, when you learned about Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

- For me it was like what we feared most became a reality. That was my first reaction. And then I had this really big admiration for the Ukrainian government and president, who decided to stay in Ukraine. I think that was a really important moment. And from that moment on, we’ve been working very-very hard to do whatever we can to support Ukraine. I will never forget the first phone call I got – that the large-scale invasion had started. Like I said, the immediate response was very important. Now, more than two years into the invasion, we see that Ukraine is fighting an incredible fight with incredible courage, but this can only be done with our support that must continue. I am determined to do whatever I can to help.

Iryna Drabok, The Hague

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