WASHINGTON (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that his country plans to “join” US and German efforts to train and arm Ukraine with advanced Patriot defense systems.
Rutte announced the Netherlands’ intentions at the start of a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House. The Dutch defense ministry said Rutte’s announcement came after Ukraine asked the Netherlands for “patriotic capabilities”.
“We are going to join what you are doing with Germany in the Patriot project,” Rutte told Biden. “I think it’s important that we get on board with that.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said in his nightly speech that the Netherlands had agreed to send the Patriot battery to Ukraine. “So now there are three guaranteed batteries. But this is just the beginning. We are seeking new solutions to strengthen air defense,” Zelensky said.
Rutte, who said he also spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday about the potential aid, was more vague about the commitment in public comments. He told Dutch broadcaster NOS that his government was negotiating what concrete contribution it could make. The Dutch military has four Patriot systems, one of which is decommissioned, according to the Ministry of Defense.
“The idea is not only about training, but also about equipment,” Rutte told NOS. He added that the Dutch military is now reviewing “what exactly we have, how we can make it work well with the American and German systems.”
Speaking at a forum at Georgetown University, he added that the decision was a recognition that “we all have to do more” as Ukraine enters a critical phase of the war.
Rutte spoke of the potential assistance as Ukrainian troops arrived at the Fort Sill Army base in Oklahoma to begin training to operate and maintain the Patriot missile defense system. The Patriot is the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help counter Russian airstrikes.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. General Pat Ryder said the training would last several months and would train 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the Patriot missile system.
Biden also used Tuesday’s meeting to discuss U.S. efforts to further limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors through export restrictions.
The administration has been trying to get the Netherlands on the same page since the US Commerce Department announced new export controls targeting China in October. The restrictions are designed to limit China’s ability to access advanced computing chips, build and maintain supercomputers, and manufacture advanced semiconductors.
“Together, we’re working to keep the Indo-Pacific free and open and, frankly, China’s challenges,” Biden said at the start of the meeting.
Administration officials have argued that the export restrictions are necessary because China can use semiconductors to develop advanced military systems, including weapons of mass destruction; commit human rights violations; and improve the speed and accuracy of their military decision-making, planning and logistics.
Netherlands-based technology giant ASML is a major manufacturer of lithography machines that design and manufacture semiconductors. China is one of ASML’s biggest customers.
CEO Peter Wennink downplayed the impact of the U.S. export control rules shortly after the administration announced them last fall. ASML said last year that it hoped that by 2022 the sales of the entire company will amount to about 21 billion euros.
The US is also negotiating tougher export restrictions with Japan to limit the sale of semiconductor manufacturing technology to China. Rutte’s visit came after Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week for interviews.
The US and Japan said in a joint statement after the meeting that the two countries had agreed to “clarify our shared advantage in economic security, including the protection and promotion of important and emerging technologies.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last week urged Japan and the Netherlands to resist US pressure.
“We expect the relevant countries to do the right thing and work together to maintain the multilateral trade regime and protect the stability of global industries and supply chains,” he said. “It will also help protect their own long-term interests.”
Biden praised the Netherlands as one of the United States’ “strongest” allies and a “very, very strong” supporter of Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February. The Netherlands has allocated about 2.7 billion dollars (2.5 billion euros) of support to Ukraine this year. The money will be used for military equipment, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.
The Netherlands providing Patriot aid to Ukraine, be it weapons systems, missiles or training, would be a big step for a NATO ally.
The current training of Ukrainian forces in Oklahoma is in part to maintain the battery that the US will send to Ukraine once the training is complete. Each system has several components, including a phased-array radar, control station, computers and generators, and typically requires about 90 soldiers to operate and maintain, but only three soldiers are needed to actually fire it, according to the military.
Once the Patriot is on the battlefield, some of the ongoing maintenance will be done remotely, Ryder said.
The Dutch prime minister, in turn, praised Biden for leading international efforts to support Ukraine.
“I am convinced that history will decide in 2022 that if the United States had not stepped up like you did, things would have been very different,” Rutte said.
Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Associated Press writers Lynn Berry, Tara Copp and Colleen Long contributed reporting.