Poland and Slovakia have become the first Western countries to approve fighter jets for Ukraine as the war drags on—while countries like the U.S. and U.K. continue to refuse due to escalation fears.
Eduard Heger, Slovakia’s prime minister, gave the approval to send Soviet-made MiG-29s to Ukraine. He said his country will be on “the right side of history.”
Poland will also provide Soviet-made fighters. Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country will provide Ukraine with four fighters within the next few weeks and about a dozen more after they’re refurbished. These planes will be replaced in Poland by American F-35s and South Korean FA-50s.
He said the MiGs being sent are currently in Poland’s air force, but in “their last years of operation but are still for the most part in full working order.” Ukrainian pilots are already familiar with the aircraft so there is no required training.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Poland is considering providing Ukraine with its own F-16s.
Russia’s Embassy in the country called the plans “illegal” because—under previous agreements—Moscow would have to approve such a transfer. The Embassy warned that the shipment could “lead to an unpredictable and dangerous escalation of the conflict and those who initiated this decision will bear “full responsibility for it.”
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters that he was surprised by Poland’s announcement.
“So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets,” Pistorius told reporters, the Associated Press reported. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
TRENDPOST: Warsaw continues to be the leader in promoting a NATO-Russia War. It is worth remembering that it was Poland that loudly pushed for the sending Leopard 2 tanks into Ukraine and also tried to promote war after blaming Russia for firing missiles into the country a few months ago, which turned out to be a total lie. (See “U.S. SENDS ANOTHER $2.5 BILLION WEAPONS OF DEATH TO UKRAINE, GERMANY TO POLAND: SEND LEOPARD TANKS” 24 Jan 2023, “NATO SPEEDS UP UKRAINE WAR WITH MORE TANKS TO UKRAINE” 28 Feb 2023 and “U.S., NATO, UKRAINE: NO PEACE PERMITTED. TANKS NOT ENOUGH, ZELENSKY WANTS MORE WEAPONS” 31 Jan 2023.)
Dmitrty Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the fighter jets will be destroyed just like the other equipment from the West that have been sent into the country. Even Ukrainian military officials have downplayed the significance of the MiG shipment. Yury Ignat, the Air Force spokesman, said the planes are unlikely to make any kind of a difference in the war. Holding true to Ukraine’s modus operandi, the country used the approval of new weapons to push for more.
Ukraine said it needs F-16s, the fourth-generation fighter jet.
“This [the handing over of MiG-29 jets to Ukraine – ed.] will increase our combat capabilities to an extent, since this is the type of aircraft that is already being deployed in daily missions and for that reason sees significant wear and tear,” he said. “But let’s not forget that these are Soviet aircraft and not modern Western-made jets. So, in a broader sense, they are unlikely to dramatically change the situation on the contact line.”
John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman, told reporters that Poland’s decision to provide the MiGs does not change Washington’s position on F-16s. But the White House praised Poland for continuing to “punch above their weight” in assisting Kyiv.
Officials in Kyiv have joked that they wish the U.S. would just agree on sending weapons and military equipment deemed escalatory because Washington ends up giving the approval anyway. There are two Ukrainian pilots in the U.S. already training on F-16s.
A “bipartisan” group of Senators sent President Joe Biden a letter calling for his administration to approve these F-16s. The letter was organized by Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Politico reported. The letter said the F-16 would “be a significant capability that could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield.”
Colin Kahl, the Pentagon policy chief, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year that the soonest F-16s could be provided to Ukraine would be in 18 months.
“It is a priority for the Ukrainians, but it’s not one of their top three priorities,” Kahl said. “Their top priorities are air defense systems … artillery and fires, which we’ve talked about, and armor and mechanized systems.”