Poland Sends MiG-29s to Ukraine as US, UK Refuse Fighter Jet Delivery
Poland has become the first NATO member to answer Ukraine’s plea for warplanes by announcing plans to transfer MiG-29 fighter jets to the country. The move comes as the nation faces a potential counter-offensive from Russia this Spring and Western governments remain reluctant to send fighter jets out of fear of escalating tensions with Moscow.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that the country would be delivering four of the Soviet-made planes in the coming days, with the rest being serviced and prepared before delivery. White House spokesperson John Kirby said that the decision was a “sovereign decision” and would not prompt President Joe Biden to supply Kyiv with F-16 aircraft, which the US president has previously said was not an option.
The MiG-29s will be key in providing air defense to Ukraine, helping to keep the skies clear of Russian forces and shoot down their cruise missiles. The Ukrainian air force was believed to have around 120 combat capable aircraft at the start of the war, mainly MiG-29s and Su-27s, though it is unclear how many remain in service.
The US and the UK have both ruled out sending fighter jets, with the Biden administration instead promising to send M1 Abrams tanks. Germany, too, has ruled out fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine, while the UK government has said that jets would not be practical. Germany, however, has committed to providing 14 Leopard 2 tanks, bowing to international pressure, while President Joe Biden said that the US would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
Poland has been replacing their 28 MiG-29s with more advanced US-made planes and hope to purchase cutting-edge F-35s. In 2018, Slovakia signed an order with the US government to replace their MiG-29 fleet with 14 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 jets.
At the same time, Polish authorities have detained nine members of an alleged Russian spy ring suspected of collaborating with the FSB, the Russian secret service agency. They were reportedly gathering intelligence on weapons supplies to Ukraine and making plans to sabotage the deliveries.
It is clear that the governments of Ukraine and the West are pushing for a resolution to the conflict through a combination of diplomatic, economic and military measures. The supply of fighter jets to Ukraine will help them to keep their airspace clear of Russian forces and protect their infrastructure and frontline.
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