Poland announced Tuesday evening that it is ready to transfer its Russian-made fighter jets to the United States. They may then be transferred to Ukraine. A spokesman for the United States Department of Defense declined to comment on Tuesday evening. According to Polish media, the country has 28 such aircraft.
It concerns MiG-29 aircraft. Ukrainian pilots can handle those planes. The delivery of modern aircraft of American or French origin to Ukraine is not useful because the pilots have not trained with them.
The delivery of combat aircraft is seen by Russia as a hostile act and can therefore have repercussions. Russia also sees the supply of anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles as a hostile act. The West is said to have supplied 17,000 of these by now. The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly stated that countries that make their airports available for the delivery of aircraft to Kiev are seen as participants in the war.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky has been calling for the delivery of fighter jets for days after NATO refused to impose a no-fly zone over his country. A no-fly zone would mean that Ukraine is protected from Russian airborne attacks, but in Russian eyes it also means that NATO goes to war with Ukraine. Such a zone must be enforced by NATO aircraft in Ukrainian airspace. NATO does not want to cross that border. The basic principle of the alliance is that it will defend the NATO member states, but will not participate in the war between Russia and Ukraine, neither with soldiers on the ground nor with aircraft in the air.
Ramstein Air Force Base
Poland would transfer the planes to the American air base in Ramstein, Germany. At the moment it is unclear how it will continue after that. Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki underlined at a press conference in Oslo that sending planes should be a decision of the entire alliance.
The delivery of combat aircraft has been discussed for a week. Early last week, EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell announced that a number of member states would be willing to supply planes. But soon NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Polish President Andrezh Duda denied that Polish planes would be delivered.
In the US, Congressmen and the White House are in favor of such a transaction. This weekend Minister of Foreign Affairs Antony Blinken made it clear that the delivery is not off the track. Poland, however, continued to deny that delivery was imminent until Tuesday afternoon.
The original idea was that Poland would get American F-16 planes to keep up its own defenses. NATO cannot afford any gaps in the defense of Eastern European countries now. Nothing was known about that on Tuesday evening. Poland will make the Russian aircraft available immediately and free of charge.
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