Yesterday we reported that Poland had struck a deal with the US to send Russian fighter jets to a US Air base in Germany.
But after the announcement, the Pentagon put the kibosh on the plan because the fighter jets would have had to take off from a US air base to fly into Ukraine:
AP – The Pentagon on Tuesday rejected Poland’s surprise announcement that it would give the United States its MiG-29 fighter jets for use by Ukraine, a rare display of disharmony by NATO allies seeking to boost Ukrainian fighters while avoiding getting caught up in a wider war with Russia.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Poland’s declaration that it intended to deliver the 28 jets to the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany raised the concerning prospect of warplanes departing from a U.S. and NATO base to fly into airspace contested with Russia in the Ukraine conflict.
“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.
The proposed gift of more warplanes would be a morale booster for Ukrainians under pounding Russian assault for nearly two weeks. But it also raises the risk of the war expanding beyond Ukraine.
Russia has declared that supporting Ukraine’s air force would be tantamount to joining the war, and could spur retaliation.
White House officials were blindsided by the Polish announcement on the MiGs. The proposal did not come up during talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he was recently in Poland, according to a U.S. official familiar with the talks.
The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said White House officials did not think the proposal would easily solve the logistical challenges of providing aircraft to Ukraine.
Ukraine has been pleading for more warplanes as it resists mightier Russian forces. Washington has been looking at a proposal under which Poland would supply Ukraine with the MiG-29s and in turn receive American F-16s to make up for their loss. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly the Soviet-era fighter jets.
The Polish Foreign Ministry announced the plan in a statement, which said the jets would be delivered to Ramstein free of charge.
“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities,” it said.
The Polish government also appealed to other owners of MIG-29 jets to follow suit.
Former Soviet-bloc NATO members Bulgaria and Slovakia also still have Soviet-made fighter jets in their air forces.
This makes the second time that Poland’s fighter jet plans to help Ukraine have been nixed. I really thought it would happen this time, especially with the news over the weekend that Blinken had given this the green light. But alas, Biden clearly doesn’t want to be seen aiding the Ukrainians like this for fear of retaliation by Putin.