Pentagon responds to Poland’s fighter jets proposal for Ukraine

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Washington has warned that Warsaw’s plan to hand over Soviet-made MiG-29 jets to Ukraine may threaten the “entire NATO” alliance

A plan under which the US would transfer Polish-owned planes to Ukraine risks dragging NATO directly into a military conflict between Kiev and Moscow, the Pentagon said, as it seemingly rejected a deal earlier proposed by Warsaw.

On Tuesday, Poland announced that it was ready to deploy “immediately and free of charge” its fleet of MiG-29 jets to a NATO base in Germany and hand them over to the US military. In return, Washington would have provided Warsaw with “used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities” to backfill its fleet. 

Responding to the proposed deal later on Tuesday, the Pentagon signaled that it was reluctant to play any role in the affair.

“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said.

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Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov holds a briefing following the NSDC meeting, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. © Evgen Kotenko / Ukrinform / Future Publishing via Getty Images
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Pointing to potential “logistical challenges” such a plan may encounter, Kirby said that it was “not clear” for the Pentagon whether the action was warranted.

“We do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” the official noted, adding that Washington would continue to discuss the issue with Poland and other NATO member-states. At the same time, he said that Poland was in its right to give its own warplanes to Ukraine, adding that the decision was “ultimately one for the Polish government.”

Last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda appeared to rule out the idea that Warsaw would give fighter jets to Ukraine on its own. “We are not sending any jets to Ukraine because that would open a military interference in the Ukrainian conflict. We are not joining that conflict,” Duda said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last Tuesday.

Kiev has been asking the West to supply warplanes and anti-aircraft systems drones as the Russian offensive in Ukraine goes into its second week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also urged NATO to implement a “no-fly zone” over the country. However, the alliance has refused to do so, pointing out that such a move would result in a “full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries.”

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