The United States disrupted Poland’s plans to provide fighter jets to Ukraine last night when the Joe Biden administration rejected a surprise offer from Warsaw to hand over a fleet of MiG-29 jets to President Zelensky’s government.
The Polish military has offered its fleet of 28 aircraft to the US in a bid to replenish Ukraine’s air force while continuing to fend off Russia’s military might.
He said the fleet would be delivered to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and made available to the US “immediately and free of charge”, with the understanding that they would then be sent to Ukraine.
The Pentagon had no prior knowledge that the offer would be made and flatly rejected the move just hours later.
Here I see why the US vetoed the offer and what it means for Poland and the war in Ukraine.
Why is the MiG-29 important?
Ukrainian pilots are trained to use MiG-29 jets and are not adequately equipped to fly the latest edition of the military aircraft.
Only a handful of NATO countries still operate Soviet-era aircraft, including Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Poland’s offer to provide MiG-29s to Ukraine is significant as the country has suffered heavy losses in its air force.
Russia’s military capabilities already far exceed that of Ukraine and if the country suffers further losses, it could soon lose control of its airspace and be unable to defend itself against attacks in the skies.
However, if another country were to supply Ukraine with a fleet of planes, the fighters could patrol the skies and help thwart further air raids on major cities.
Why did the United States turn down the offer of a fighter jet?
US officials said the offer was “unsustainable” and caused “serious concern for the entire NATO alliance.”
They seem concerned that accepting the fleet would effectively bring NATO into direct conflict with Russia.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby issued a public rejection of the Polish proposal.
“We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies on this issue and the difficult logistical challenges, but we do not believe that the Polish proposal is tenable,” Kirby said in a statement.
“It’s not clear to us that there is any substantive justification for that,” he said, noting the possible consequences if the United States flew the plane into Russia’s disputed airspace over Ukraine.
Although the Biden government says the decision to transfer the Polish-owned aircraft is ultimately up to the Polish government.
Why did Poland offer planes to the US?
Poland wants to help Ukraine resist the Russian invasion and hopes to bolster its air force, which continues to be outnumbered by its opponents.
Ukrainian pilots are not trained to use the new aircraft used by most NATO members, but they do know how to use MiG-29 aircraft.
Since Poland still had a fleet of Soviet-designed aircraft, Poland said it was willing to give them to the US.
The United States is then expected to transfer them to the Ukrainian air force.
Poland is expected to receive US F-16 fighter jets in return.
By involving the United States in the transaction, Warsaw hoped to avoid hostilities with Russia.
This is because the Russian Defense Ministry has warned that if warplanes based in other countries are to strike Russian targets, then “it can be considered as participation of these countries in a military conflict”.
But if the US had agreed to take delivery of the fighter jets and transfer them to Ukraine, Russia might be more reluctant to engage in direct conflict with the US.
Will Poland send planes to Ukraine?
It is highly unlikely that Warsaw will send a fleet of fighter jets to Ukraine without NATO approval.
Without the support of its allies, Poland would appear isolated and could face a harsh response from the Kremlin.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has warned that Russia could attack Poland if it sends its planes directly to Ukraine.
She says sky news: “Poland will understand that the decisions it makes will not only directly help Ukraine, which is good, but could also put them in direct fire line for countries like Russia or Belarus.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had admitted on Tuesday that “we are not ready to make our own move.”
What did the British say?
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said it was important that Britain and other NATO allies were not directly involved in the fighting in Ukraine, as they risked escalating war with Russia.
Asked about the US rejection of Poland’s offer, the minister reiterated NATO’s commitment to defense.
“Poland is in NATO, we are all working together on this,” he told Sky News.
“It is important that we are a defensive organization, which means we will not be directly involved in war.”
Shapps added: “The United States has said they will not take the Mig planes. So it’s not something that will develop.”
The Transport Minister also wanted to emphasize that the British government was not involved in the move.
“It has nothing to do with the British government, it’s between Poland and America,” he said.
“We weren’t involved in this particular loan idea and the Americans said they wouldn’t take it that way.”
He added, “Let me be completely honest with you. We need to make sure that in our very strict support for Ukraine, which of course is not a member, we don’t inadvertently do something that escalates this war in a way that is unacceptable to the rest of the world.
“So we are careful and careful.
“We provide a large amount of humanitarian aid and military support, but we are not directly involved in the fighting and I think that is an absolutely right position.”
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