Poland is ready to transfer dozens of Soviet-era fighter jets to the United States so they can be made available to the Ukrainian military, it announced Tuesday, after officials in Ukraine pleaded with Western governments to provide warplanes—but the U.S. Department of Defense appeared to reject Poland’s offer.
A technician looks at a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter prior to takeoff at a military base in the small … [+] town of Vasylkiv, some 40km from Kyiv, on August 3, 2016.
AFP via Getty Images
The Polish military is willing to send all of its remaining MiG-29 jets—the same type of fighter jet flown by Ukraine’s air force—to the U.S.-run Ramstein Air Base in Germany “immediately and free of charge,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Poland asked the United States to “provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities,” after reports the United States has weighed replenishing Poland’s fleet with American-made F-16 fighter jets.
Hours later, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement, “we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” and warned that allowing warplanes to take off from a U.S.-run base in Germany and fly into Ukrainian airspace—which is still contested with Russia—“raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.”
27. That’s how many one- and two-seat MiG-29 fighter jets remain in Poland’s fleet, according to Janes World Air Forces.
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Poland encouraged other NATO member states with MiG-29s to “act in the same vein.” Bulgaria and Slovakia—two other former members of the Soviet bloc—also have MiG-29s, but the two countries have declined to send planes to Ukraine, Politico reported last week.
As Ukraine seeks to fend off the Russian military, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the U.S. and its allies to either impose a no-fly zone over his country’s airspace—an idea rejected by NATO as unnecessarily risky—or send fighter jets and other military equipment. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave NATO countries a “green light” to send jets to Ukraine on Sunday, and said the U.S. is “working with Poland as we speak to see if we can backfill anything that they provide to the Ukrainians.” However, the idea has faced some roadblocks in recent days, as the United States and its allies seek to assist Ukraine without drawing themselves into the war. Polish President Andrzej Duda said last week his country wouldn’t send planes to Ukraine “because that would open a military interference in the Ukrainian conflict,” a concern echoed by unnamed U.S. officials who told NBC News on Monday the move may be interpreted by Russia as direct NATO involvement in the war. NBC also reported on logistical problems that could make it difficult to fly planes directly to Ukraine, and some officials told the outlet the United States doesn’t have a surplus of F-16s.
Some military experts have said other types of weapons would be more useful to to Ukraine than MiG-29s. Michael Kofman—director of Russia studies at the think tank CNA—told Axios “a lot of the aircraft Ukraine has put up has gotten shot down,” and any additional MiG-29s will need to operate from air bases subjected to frequent Russian aerial bombardments.
The U.S. Wants To Arrange Soviet-Era Fighter Jets For Ukraine—Here’s Why That May Be Difficult (Forbes)
Russia-Ukraine Live Updates (Forbes)