Thursday, February 2

US, Poland still discussing possible jet deal


American and Polish officials are still discussing how Warsaw could transfer its fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine following a surprise announcement that caused Washington to balk at the idea, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday. 

“We continue to consult with our Polish counterparts,” the official said, adding that “there’s been no personal change in the situation, no final decisions one way or another.” 

The Pentagon on Tuesday pushed back at Poland’s proposal to transfer the Russian-made MiG-29s to Ukraine by first sending them to the U.S. military’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for days has pleaded with Western officials for the jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly, to help Kyiv counter the brutal Russian assault on the country. 

After Zelensky on Saturday implored U.S. lawmakers to help transfer the MiGs, it appeared Washington was warming up to the idea. 

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — More help headed Ukraine’s way Poland says it’s transferring MiG fighters to US base amid Ukraine pleas for help UN human rights chief says China trip will include stop in Xinjiang MORE even said on Sunday that the plan had gotten “the green light” from the U.S. and that the Biden administration would then work to backfill the Polish military, presumably with U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets.  

But Warsaw’s announcement caught Washington off guard, as the Polish government had not consulted with the Defense Department prior to releasing it, according the official.  

The department quickly released a statement that evening, calling the proposal “untenable,” due to the complexities of moving the jets from a U.S.-NATO base to fly into airspace contested with Russia. Moscow has made clear that such an action could be seen as stepping into the conflict.  

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“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. 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,” Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security — More help headed Ukraine’s way Pentagon: Polish proposal to send MiG fighters to US air base not ‘tenable’ Poland says it’s transferring MiG fighters to US base amid Ukraine pleas for help MORE said Tuesday.  

Asked about the statement, the official said the department “felt it was important to make clear our concerns about the proposal” put forth by Poland, and that “it’s not the United States’ positioned to take a position on what another sovereign nation might be talking to Ukraine about what to provide.” 

The official added: “If Poland or any other nation wants to have that discussion with Ukraine, we respect that process.” 

Despite Ukraine’s pleas for more aircraft, the official said most of the country’s fleet is still up and running.

“They do have fixed-wing aircraft available to them, still the majority of their fleet is still intact and operable,” official said.



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