U.S rejects Poland’s offer to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine

Mar 9, 2022: The U.S has rejected Poland’s offer to send its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via US airbase in Germany, saying the proposal raises “serious concerns” for the entire NATO alliance.

Warsaw made the offer on Tuesday amid repeated calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for more fighter jets to replenish his country’s air force as it defends against attacks on Russian forces.

Poland’s proposal meant that the Russian made MiG-29 fighter jets would be delivered to a US base in Ramstein, Germany, and then later be deployed to Ukraine.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the Pentagon however said the prospect of the jets flying from a US-NATO base “into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance”.

“We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” Kirby said in a statement.

“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” he added.

Although a significant portion of Ukraine’s air force has remained intact since the start of the war on February 24, both Ukraine and Russia have suffered significant losses and none of them have control over the country’s airspace. Ukraine’s fleet consists of old Soviet-era MiG-29 and Sukhoi-27 jets, and heavier Sukhoi-25 jets – the only aircraft Ukrainian pilots can fly without any additional training.

As Ukraine steps up demands from Western allies to supply it with military jets, the supply of fighter jets to Kyiv poses serious risks.

Russia has warned that support for Ukraine’s air force will be seen in Moscow as an opportunity for suppliers to take part in the conflict and for possible retaliation. NATO has said it does not want a direct confrontation with Moscow, an allied nuclear power, and U.S President Joe Biden has refused to send US troops to Ukraine for the war, the Pentagon has said.

After Poland announced its offer, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told US lawmakers that Washington was acting cautiously.

While several legislators pressed for the jets to be rushed to Ukraine, Nuland refused to commit Washington to support or facilitate the exchange.

On the other hand, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said his country would stand by Poland if it handed over the jets, noting that it could face the “direct consequence” of its decision.

Whereas Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said any decision about delivering offensive weapons must be made unanimously by NATO members.

“This is why we are able to give all of our fleet of jet fighters to Ramstein, but we are not ready to make any moves on our own because … we are not a party to this war,” he said.

Separately, the US military announced it would reposition two Patriot missile batteries to Poland to proactively “counter any potential threat to US and Allied forces and NATO territory.”

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