WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands said on Tuesday that his country was considering sending a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, a move that would bolster Kyiv’s air defenses and help repel Russian strikes.
Mr. Rutte, seated next to President Biden in the Oval Office, said that a Russian attack on the city of Dnipro, which killed dozens of people in one residential building, had strengthened “our resolve to stay with Ukraine” amid deepening concerns over the Ukrainians’ ability to withstand another possible offensive by Moscow.
“We have the intention to join what you are doing with Germany on the Patriot project, so the air defense system,” Mr. Rutte told Mr. Biden. “I think that it’s important we join that, and I discussed it also this morning with Olaf Scholz of Germany.”
It was unclear whether the Dutch had formally committed to sending the system. The Defense Department and the White House did not say whether a firm commitment had been made, though one administration official said a formal decision was expected. The Dutch Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Rutte is the latest foreign leader to visit Washington as Mr. Biden works to shore up a number of crucial global alliances he believes can help counter rising aggression from Russia and China. On Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan met with Mr. Biden, and the two leaders promised to work together to improve Japan’s military posture and denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Biden has also tried to persuade the Dutch and the Japanese to sign on to American efforts to curb China’s access to semiconductors that could advance its own military technologies.
The State of the War
- Dnipro: A Russian strike on an apartment complex in the central Ukrainian city was one of the deadliest for civilians away from the front line since the war began. The attack prompted renewed calls for Moscow to be charged with war crimes.
- Western Military Aid: Britain indicated that it would give battle tanks to Ukrainian forces to help prepare them for anticipated Russian assaults this spring, adding to the growing list of powerful Western weapons being sent Ukraine’s way that were once seen as too provocative.
- Soledar: The Russian military and the Wagner Group, a private mercenary group, contradicted each other publicly about who should get credit for capturing the eastern town. Ukraine’s military, meanwhile, has rejected Russia’s claim of victory, saying its troops are still fighting there.
In recent days, the attacks on Dnipro have increased pressure on Western nations to do more to supply Kyiv with economic and military aid. Mr. Rutte’s interest in sending a Patriot system follows a decision in late December by American officials to supply and train Ukrainian troops. On Tuesday afternoon, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Twitter that he was grateful to the Dutch prime minister “for the intention to provide Patriot air defense system” to Ukraine.
“It greatly improves air defense, protects our cities & people from RF’s missile terror,” he said, referring to the Russian Federation.
But pressure has also grown on Germany and the United States to follow Britain’s lead in pledging to send tanks to Ukraine, though neither government has said it would do so.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden spoke to Mr. Scholz, the German chancellor, by phone. The two leaders “discussed their steadfast support to Ukraine and condemned Russia’s aggression,” according to a readout from the administration.
Aside from encouraging a united front against Russia, Mr. Biden has hoped that meeting with leaders in person can help build support for the sweeping restrictions his administration made in October on the sale to China of chips and the tools that can be used to make them. American officials believe the technology can be used to power supercomputers and weapons systems that might one day threaten the United States.
U.S. officials have for several years been in talks with the Netherlands and Japan, makers of the world’s most advanced equipment for manufacturing semiconductors, to limit the kinds of technology they sell to China.
The restrictions put in place by the Biden administration included limits on foreign-made chips that are manufactured with U.S. technology. But the United States stopped short of regulating foreign-made manufacturing equipment, like that produced by the Dutch firm ASML.
The United States makes much of the most advanced equipment needed by global semiconductor factories, known as fabs. In the short term, the new restrictions have been “like punching a hole into every chip fab in China that meets the technical specifications of the rules,” said Emily Kilcrease, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
But the measures could prove to be less effective over time, she said, if foreign companies like ASML or Japan’s Tokyo Electron are lured by China’s huge market into trying to develop and sell their own versions of U.S. technology.
“If there are other countries that are not subject to the same level of controls, there’s this really strong structural incentive for these foreign companies to develop alternatives to U.S. technology,” Ms. Kilcrease said.
American companies say the measures will put them at a disadvantage compared with foreign competitors. Lam Research, a chip-making technology provider, forecast a revenue hit of $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year. Applied Materials, another equipment company, has given similar estimates.
The Biden administration had hoped to issue its October rules in tandem with allies and had spent months in discussions with them, including the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Israel and Britain.
But while many of these governments recognize Beijing as a rising national security threat, they have been reluctant to cut off important commerce with China. In both Japan and the Netherlands, there have been questions about the legal authorities to issue restrictions like the United States, as well as extensive technical discussions about which precise technologies to restrict.
Gregory Allen, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said foreign governments appeared to be pushing for the agreement to be broadened further, to include countries like South Korea and Germany, to make sure they are not put at a commercial disadvantage by joining with the United States.