WASHINGTON D.C. – The US seems to temper expectations about the delivery of Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The Polish proposal to do so is “untenable”, according to the Pentagon. Poland considered bringing the fighter jets to USAF Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then handing them over to the Ukrainian Air Force. At the moment however, the chances of Ukraine getting MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland seem to have drastically decreased.
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 Kirby wrote on Twitter.
“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,” Kirby said.
Polish MiGs for American F-16s
The intention was that the aircraft would be first flown to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. According to Poland, it is up to the U.S. to subsequently deliver the MiGs to Ukraine. Poland does not want a direct delivery of the jets to Ukraine, because it would interfere with the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
Poland wants to hand over the MiGs free of charge, but hopes that it will receive ‘new’ F-16s from the U.S. to fill the gap in the fleet of fighter jets in the Polish Air Force.
A possible turning point in the war
“The possible delivery of Polish fighter jets to Ukraine could mark a turning point in the war,” Markiyan Lubkivsky – adviser to the Ukrainian Defense Minister – said earlier this week to NOS. “This can help us beat the Russians in the air as well,” he added. Lubkivsky also said he expects a total of 70 fighters to be delivered of which 28 would come from Poland, the rest from other NATO member states operating the MiG-29, like Bulgaria and Slovakia.
The U.S. initially said it was surprised by the Polish offer and the Pentagon added that the Polish proposal is unlikely to be tenable, although talks continue.
Alternative to no-fly zone
Lubkivsky expects that the Polish fighter jets could lead to Ukraine taking control of its own airspace. “We are in good shape on the ground, but not in the air. If we close the airspace, the situation will change dramatically. It will increase the pressure on Putin to stop his aggression.”
Ukraine has repeatedly asked NATO countries to establish a ‘no-fly zone’. In that case, NATO should ensure that Russian aircraft are banned from Ukrainian airspace. However, the NATO countries do not agree, for fear of further escalation of the war.
Lubkivsky disagrees with that argument: “World War III has already started. This is not a war between Russia and Ukraine, but Russia against the civilized world. If we lose this, the EU will be the next victim.”
Lubkivsky sees the delivery of fighter jets as an alternative to such a no-fly zone. He quotes British war prime minister Winston Churchill, who addressed the U.S. on February 9, 1941, during World War II with the famous words: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” In other words – deliver the stuff and Ukraine will solve it itself.
Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum
The Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum is a twin-engine fighter jet designed and developed in the Soviet Union in the 70s by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter. The MiG-29 was developed as the Soviet counterpart to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, while the larger Su-27 was developed as a counterpart to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
The MiG-29 entered service with the Soviet Air Forces in 1982, and was a huge success worldwide, serving for many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
Besides Ukraine, Russia, and Poland, the Fulcrum is still in service in Europe with the Central and Eastern European NATO allies Slovakia and Bulgaria.
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