Poland’s move to become the first country to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine does not change the US’s decision not to send its own fighter jets to Kiev, the White House said Thursday.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters today that Poland’s decision to send its Soviet-designed fighter jets “does not change our calculation regarding F16s,” referring to the US-built fighter jet.
He made it clear that Poland’s step “has no influence, does not change anything”.
Earlier today, Polish President Andrzej Duda said the country would send four of the fighter jets to Ukraine “within the next few weeks,” while about a dozen will be sent to Kiev after maintenance.
Poland is the first NATO member to comply with Kiev’s increasingly urgent requests for fighter jets in their fight against Russia.
Poland will send Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days, the president said today, making it the first NATO member to comply with Kiev’s increasingly urgent requests for fighter jets in their fight against Russia
President Andrzej Duda said Poland would send four of the fighter jets (file image) to Ukraine “within minutes,” while another 15 will be sent in the coming weeks after they are serviced.
Polish President Duda said today: “In the next few days, if I remember correctly, we will first transfer four fully operational aircraft to Ukraine.
“Additional aircraft are currently in preparation, under maintenance and are likely to be handed over sequentially.”
“We can therefore say that we are about to send these MiGs to Ukraine,” he said, adding that Poland currently has a dozen MiG aircraft that it inherited from the former German Democratic Republic.
“These MiGs are still in service with the Polish Air Force. They’re in their last few years of operation, but mostly still working,” Duda said.
The MiG-29s will help Ukraine destroy Russian air targets within radar coverage limits, as well as ground targets using unguided missiles. The aircraft also features large wing extensions making it highly maneuverable and controllable at subsonic speeds.
Warsaw, one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, has played a leading role in persuading sometimes hesitant allies to supply Kiev with heavy weapons.
Duda did not say whether other European countries would take the same step, although Slovakia has said it would send its decommissioned MiGs to Ukraine to make up for losses on Kiev’s current stocks.
Earlier on Thursday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak had said Poland wanted to transfer MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine “as part of a larger coalition of countries.”
Asked about the countries in this coalition, Blaszczak named Slovakia, but added: “Of course we are open to others.”
“We absolutely want to conduct our activities within the framework of a coalition,” he added.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said deliveries could take place within four to six weeks.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries with MiGs had also committed them to Kiev, but he did not name them.
The Ukrainian Air Force has a fleet of obsolete Soviet-era fighter jets that came off the assembly line more than 31 years ago before Kiev declared independence. The fighters are used for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for Western supporters to share fighter jets, NATO allies have expressed hesitation.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion last February, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited during the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s unclear how many of them are still in service after more than a year of fighting.
The debate over whether or not to supply the non-NATO country of Ukraine with fighter jets began more than a year ago, but NATO has been wary of letting the war escalate.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in January that it is investigating the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The Netherlands has about 40 American F-16s, while seven other European NATO countries fly the jets, including Poland and Norway.
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki also said on Tuesday that Warsaw is considering supplying US-made F-16 fighter jets that would give the Ukrainians a qualitative advantage over the Russians.
The Biden administration must first approve these third-party transfers, whereby a country re-exports its US aircraft to Ukraine to defend its airspace against Russian attacks.
The UK, one of Kiev’s staunchest supporters and military suppliers, has remained hesitant to send Typhoon and F-35 jets to Ukraine because it would take months or even years to train pilots accustomed to fighter jets from the Soviet era. Experts say they aren’t the most effective jets for the battlefield either.
Members of the Ukrainian special unit gather in the woods near Bachmut, Donbas region, on March 15.
A Ukrainian member of a special forces unit checks and prepares his weapon in the forest, near Bachmut, Donbas region, on March 15
The Ukrainian Air Force, on the other hand, is familiar with MiG-29s, which means they were able to use the planes right away.
Duda made the announcement during a joint press conference in Warsaw with the visiting Czech president, Petr Pavel.
Duda said Poland had about 10-20 MiG 29 jets. He added that the Polish Air Force would replace the aircraft it gives to Ukraine with South Korean-made FA-50 fighters and US-made F-35s.
Poland also became the first NATO country to hand over German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine last month.
Earlier this year, Washington said it would send 31 of its fast-moving M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, while Berlin will initially supply at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks and allow other NATO countries to send their own tanks to Kiev. to deliver.
Britain was the first NATO country to announce that it would send 14 next-generation main battle tanks to Ukraine in the form of the Challenger 2 tanks.
Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It hosts thousands of US troops and takes in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other country in the midst of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis in decades.
It has suffered centuries of invasion and occupation by Russia and still fears Russia despite being a member of NATO.
It comes as Russia endured a months-long drive to capture the small eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in what would be its first substantial victory in more than half a year.
The Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region said on Thursday that the situation around the now-ravaged city remains “complex and difficult” as Kiev defiantly refused to withdraw its troops.
“That is, we do not see any premise that the enemy is simply going to withdraw units,” Denis Pushilin said in an interview on state television.
Zelensky said this week that his military top had recommended reinforcing Bakhmut.
Kiev appeared to be preparing to leave the city last month, but has since decided to defend the city as it exhausts the Russian strike force there to clear the way for its own counter-attack.
In its daily intelligence update on the war in Ukraine, the British Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Russian attempts to take the town of Vuhledar, about 150 km south-west of Bakhmut, were “almost certainly delayed” after repeated, very costly failed attacks on the last three months.
Ukrainian soldiers walk along a street in the area of the heaviest battles with the Russian invaders in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine on Wednesday
North of Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops fought in a bombed-out village near the town of Kreminna against what they say was an attempt by Russia to stage a massive pincer movement.
“The Russians are trying to adapt in real time,” said a member of a drone unit called “Zara.” “This creates big problems for us because we have to think a few steps ahead – how to complete the mission and not let the enemy know how we did it.”
The war has led to the destruction of Ukrainian towns and cities, the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions from their homes. It has also turned the global economy upside down, driving up energy and food prices.
Meeting with members of Russia’s business elite for the first time since the invasion on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin urged them to invest in their country to help it weather what he called the West’s “war of sanctions.”
Many of those in attendance are themselves under Western sanctions over what Putin calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.