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It’s a Hard ‘No’ From the Pentagon to Poland’s Offer to Send U.S. Jets For Ukraine

It’s a Hard ‘No’ From the Pentagon to Poland’s Offer to Send U.S. Jets For Ukraine

 

The Pentagon on Wednesday firmly rejected a Polish proposal for providing Ukraine with MiG fighter jets, saying allied efforts against the Russian invasion should be focused on more useful weaponry and the MiG transfer with a U.S. and NATO connection would run a “high risk” of escalating the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded repeatedly for the U.S. to provide his military with more aircraft, which has been presented as an apparent alternative to establishing a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine to suppress Russian air power. The “no-fly” idea was rejected earlier by Washington and NATO as an unnecessary risk of escalation.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said the Biden administration and the Pentagon were looking at a proposal under which Poland would supply Kyiv with the Soviet-era fighters, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly, and in turn receive American F-16s to make up for the loss.

But Poland wanted no part of that, concerned about involving itself too directly in conflict with Russia. Poland then said it was prepared to hand over all 28 of its MiG-29 planes directly to NATO by flying them to the U.S. airbase in Ramstein, Germany, from where they would somehow be flown to Ukraine, which is the arrangement rejected by the Pentagon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that in a phone call, Zelensky on Wednesday again asked urgently for the United States to provide warplanes, anti-aircraft missiles, and other weaponry. However, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the MiG transfer proposal with his Polish counterpart and explained why Washington found it untenable. “Secretary Austin thanked the minister for Poland’s willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine,” Kirby said. “He stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody, either.”

Kirby said Ukraine still has a significant number of its own aircraft, and the U.S. believes that adding aircraft from other nations “is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force relative to Russian capabilities.” Also, the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that transferring MiG fighters to Ukraine “may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO,” Kirby said.

Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It is hosting thousands of American troops and is taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other nation in the midst of the largest European refugee crisis in decades.

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