WASHINGTON (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that his country plans to “join” efforts by the US and Germany to train and equip Ukraine with advanced Patriot defense systems.
Rutte signaled the Netherlands’ intentions at the start of a White House meeting with President Joe Biden. The Dutch Defense Ministry said Rutte’s announcement came after Ukraine asked the Netherlands to provide “patriotic capabilities”.
“We intend to go along with what you are doing with Germany on the Patriot project,” Rutte told Biden. “I think it’s important that we join that.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his late night address that the Netherlands had agreed to send a Patriot battery to Ukraine. “So now there are three guaranteed batteries. But that’s just the beginning. We are working on new solutions to strengthen our air defenses,” said Zelenskyy.
Rutte, who said he also spoke to Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday about the possible help, was rather vague about the commitment in his public statements. He told Dutch broadcaster NOS that his government is in talks about what exactly it can contribute. According to the Ministry of Defence, the Dutch military has four Patriot systems, one of which is not in use.
“The idea is not only training, but also equipment,” Rutte told NOS. He added that the Dutch military is now reviewing “what exactly we have, how can we make sure it works well with the American and German systems.”
He added during a forum at Georgetown University that the decision was an acknowledgment that “we all need to do more” as Ukraine enters a critical phase of the war.
Rutte spoke about the possible support as Ukrainian troops arrived at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill Army Base to begin training for the operation and maintenance of the Patriot missile defense system. The Patriot is the most advanced surface-to-air missile system provided by western Ukraine to counter Russian airstrikes.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the training will last several months and will train 90 to 100 Ukrainian troops on the use of 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 government has been trying to get the Netherlands on the same page since the US Commerce Department announced new export controls for China in October. The restrictions aim to limit China’s ability to access advanced computer chips, develop and maintain supercomputers, and manufacture advanced semiconductors.
“Together we are working on how to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific and quite frankly the challenges of China,” Biden said at the beginning of the meeting.
Government officials argued that the export restrictions are necessary because China can use semiconductors to manufacture advanced military systems including weapons of mass destruction; commit human rights violations; and improve the speed and accuracy of its military decision-making, planning, and logistics.
Dutch tech giant ASML is a major manufacturer of lithography machines that design and produce semiconductors. China is one of ASML’s largest customers.
CEO Peter Wennink downplayed the impact of US export controls shortly after the US government unveiled them last fall. ASML said last year that it expects company-wide sales of around €21 billion in 2022.
The US has also held talks with Japan about tighter export restrictions to limit the sale of semiconductor manufacturing technology to China. Rutte’s visit comes after Biden received Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for talks last week.
The US and Japan, in a joint statement after the meeting, said the two sides agreed to “strengthen our common edge on economic security, including protecting and promoting critical and emerging technologies.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last week urged Japan and the Netherlands to resist US pressure.
“We hope that the relevant countries will do the right thing and work together to uphold the multilateral trade regime and ensure the stability of global industrial and supply chains,” he said. “This is also to protect their own long-term interests.”
Biden hailed the Netherlands as one of the United States’ “strongest” allies and one that has proven “very, very steadfast” in its support for Ukraine since Russia began its invasion in February. The Netherlands pledged around $2.7 billion (€2.5 billion) to help Ukraine this year. The money will be spent on military equipment, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.
The Netherlands providing Ukraine with Patriot support – whether it be weapons systems, missiles or training – would be an important step for the NATO ally.
Training for Ukraine’s armed forces, currently underway in Oklahoma, is said to focus in part on how to service the battery that the US will send to Ukraine upon completion of the training. Each system consists of several components, including a phased array radar, a control station, computers, and generators, and typically requires around 90 soldiers to operate and maintain. However, according to the Army, only three soldiers are needed to actually fire it.
Some of the ongoing maintenance support once the Patriot is on the battlefield is done remotely, Ryder said.
For his part, the Dutch prime minister praised Biden for leading the international effort to support Ukraine.
“I’m confident that history will judge in 2022, if the United States hadn’t acted like you, things would have turned out very differently,” Rutte said.
Corder reported from The Hague, The Netherlands. Associated Press writers Lynn Berry, Tara Copp and Colleen Long contributed coverage.