The United States has rejected an offer from Poland to receive the country’s fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets at a U.S. air base in Germany, which would then be sent to assist Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
This ongoing and fluid story gathered pace on Tuesday evening after Poland gave the green light for its Russian-made fighter jets to sent to Ukraine to help replenish the country’s air force. The announcement ended days of speculation as to whether or not NATO allies would heed the call of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help combat Russia’s superiority in the battle for Ukraine’s airspace.
NATO allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, had previously ignored calls to impose a no-fly zone across Ukraine over concerns that NATO members would effectively enter the conflict if they were required to shoot down Russian jets. Member nations had even been reluctant to assist with the provision of military aircraft, instead opting to supply anti-aircraft missiles, after the Kremlin had warned that any nation facilitating the take-off of fighter jets to Ukraine will have entered the conflict.
Early on Tuesday evening, the Polish Foreign Ministry released a statement announcing it had finally given the green light for its Russian made MiG-29 fighter jets to be used by Ukrainian defense forces, but proposed the jets were first flown to Germany to await deployment at a U.S. air base.
“The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Government, are ready to deploy — immediately and free of charge — all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America,” the statement of the Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau reads.
“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes,” it added.
However, within a matter of hours the proposal was slapped down by U.S. government officials, with the press secretary for the United States Department of Defense, John Kirby, revealing in a statement that the department did not consider Poland’s proposal to be “tenable.”
“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” Kirby said. “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.”
The issue would appear to lie around who would directly transfer the fleet to Ukraine, with NATO members appearing reluctant to be seen to be involving itself directly in the conflict.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed on Sunday that the U.S. was considering replacing Polish fighter jets if Warsaw decided to transfer its MiG-29s to Ukraine. So far, the representatives of the Polish government had assured that no decision was made on the matter and that any decisions should be made as part of NATO.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told Sky News on Tuesday that Britain would support Poland if it decided to supply Ukraine with fighter jets. He warned, however, that doing so could have direct consequences for Poland.
“I would support the Poles and whatever choice they make,” Wallace told Sky News, adding that the United Kingdom was unable to offer aircraft that Ukrainian pilots could operate.
“We would protect Poland, we’ll help them with anything that they need,” he said.
“Poland will understand that the choices they make will not only directly help Ukraine, which is a good thing, but also may bring them into direct line of fire from countries such as Russia or Belarus,” Wallace stressed.