WASHINGTON (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that his country planned to “join” the efforts of the United States and Germany to train and arm Ukraine with advanced Patriot defense systems.
Rutte signaled Holland’s intentions at the start of a White House meeting with President Joe Biden. The Dutch Ministry of Defense said Rutte’s announcement came after Ukraine asked the Netherlands to provide a “patriotic capability”.
“We intend to join in what you are doing with Germany on Project Patriot,” Rutte told Biden. “I think it’s important that we join this.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening speech that the Netherlands had agreed to send Ukraine a Patriot battery. “So there are now three guaranteed batteries. But that’s only the beginning. We are working on new solutions to strengthen our air defense,” Zelenskyy said.
Rutte, who said he also spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Tuesday on potential help, was more vague about the pledge in his public comments. He told Dutch broadcaster NOS that his government was in talks on exactly what he could deliver. The Dutch army has four Patriot systems, one of which is not in service, according to the Ministry of Defence.
“The idea is not only training, but also equipment,” Rutte told NOS. He added that the Dutch army is reviewing “what exactly we have, how can we make sure it works well with the American and German systems”.
He added at a forum at Georgetown University that the decision was a recognition that “we all need to do more” as Ukraine enters a critical phase of the war.
Rutte spoke of the potential assistance when Ukrainian troops arrived at Fort Sill Army Base, Oklahoma, to begin training in the operation and maintenance of the Patriot missile defense system. The Patriot is the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian air attacks.
Pentagon Air Force spokesman Brig. General Pat Ryder said the training will last several months and will train 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers in 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 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 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 maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, and quite frankly on the challenges of China,” Biden said at the start of the meeting.
Administration officials said the export restrictions are necessary because China can use semiconductors to create 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 biggest customers.
CEO Peter Wennink played down the impact of U.S. export control regulations shortly after the administration unveiled them last fall. ASML said last year it expected company-wide sales in 2022 to be around 21 billion euros.
The United States is also in talks with Japan on tougher export restrictions to limit the sale of semiconductor manufacturing technology to China. Rutte’s visit comes after Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week for interviews.
The United States and Japan, in a joint statement after the meeting, said the two sides agreed to “strengthen our common advantage in economic security, including the protection and promotion of critical technologies and emerging”.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called on Japan and the Netherlands to resist US pressure.
“We hope relevant countries will do the right thing and work together to uphold the multilateral trading regime and safeguard the stability of global industrial and supply chains,” he said. “It will also serve 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 loyal” in its support of Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February. The Netherlands has committed around $2.7 billion (€2.5 billion) to support Ukraine this year. The money will be spent on military equipment, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.
The Netherlands providing Ukraine with Patriot assistance – be it weapons systems, missiles or training – would be a major step forward for the NATO ally.
The training of Ukrainian forces currently underway in Oklahoma is to focus, in part, on how to maintain the battery that will be sent by the United States 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 fire it, according to the military.
Some of the ongoing maintenance support once the Patriot is on the battlefield will be done remotely, Ryder said.
The Dutch prime minister, for his part, praised Biden for leading the international effort to support Ukraine.
“I’m confident that history will judge in 2022 had the United States not stepped up like you have, 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.