Poland Becomes First NATO Nation to Supply Fighter Jets to Ukraine
Poland has become the first NATO member to fulfill Ukraine’s increasingly urgent requests for fighter jets since the Russian invasion began last year. Polish President Andrzej Duda announced at a news conference that Poland will hand over four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets “within the next few days”, with the rest to be serviced and supplied later. Western governments have been hesitant to send fighter jets out of concern over escalating tensions between NATO and Russia.
According to reports, Poland has 29 MiG-29 combat aircraft in its inventory, half of which were equipped with modern avionics and refurbished in 2013-2014. It is believed that modernized MiG-29s will not be transferred to Ukraine. Duda did not say whether other countries would be making the same move, though Slovakia has said it would send its disused MiGs to Ukraine.
For over a year, there has been debate about whether Ukraine, a non-NATO country, should be given fighter jets, yet NATO has been cautious about the potential for the war to escalate. The US has provided Ukraine with powerful weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Javelin missiles—as well as promised M1 Abrams tanks—but President Joe Biden has thus far resisted authorizing the shipment of F-16s.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is currently exploring the option of providing Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter jets to operators of European MiG-29s, with the goal of gifting the Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine. John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council spokesman, has said the White House supports Poland’s decision to provide Ukraine with MiG fighter jets, and Washington would encourage other countries to help Ukraine however they can.
Poland has provided Ukraine with crucial support during the war, hosting thousands of American troops and taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other nation. Poland was the first NATO nation to hand German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine last month. Ukraine's MiGs have been provided with AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, manufactured in the United States, that can destroy Russian air-defense radars from up to 50 miles away.
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