Poland MiG-29: Warsaw becomes the first NATO member to promise fighter jets to Ukraine


Poland pledged on Thursday to send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO member to do so, in a major step in the battle for Kiev to resist Russia’s assault.

President Andrzej Duda said the planes – among a dozen he had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic – would be handed over in the coming days after being serviced.

“As for the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest level, we can say with confidence that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” said Duda.

Warsaw took the lead among NATO allies in supplying kyiv with heavy weapons. The announcement that Poland will send the Soviet-designed planes marks a step beyond other alliance commitments and could put pressure on other member states to do the same. Other NATO nations have been reluctant to go much beyond a decision made earlier this year to send tanks to Kiev, and the United States insisted on Thursday that the decision of the Poland would not force Washington’s hand.

Speaking at a press conference in Warsaw with his new Czech counterpart Petr Pavel, the Polish president voiced the two countries’ joint support for Kyiv.

“The Czech Republic and Poland are countries that are at the absolute forefront when it comes to supporting Ukraine, both humanitarianly and militarily,” President Duda said.

Poland had been one of the most vocal European nations against Russia – even before the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is still perceived by many in Polish political and diplomatic circles in a Cold War context. Putin has always been considered untrustworthy by Warsaw and Russian expansion must be fought at all costs. It is one of the few NATO countries that is legally bound to meet its defense spending commitment of 2% of GDP and is an active member of the European defense community.

Sending MiGs is not an unexpected move for Poland and is fully in line with its NATO membership. It could change the dynamic within the alliance, acting as a catalyst for more countries to do so, or upset countries that oppose NATO becoming more involved in the conflict, such as Hungary.

The bigger question will be whether he puts pressure on the UK and the US, which will then do the same for Germany. Ultimately, creating this pressure on other allies was probably Poland’s intention.

The White House said Thursday that Poland’s decision to send the fighter jets is a “sovereign decision” that will not prompt President Joe Biden to send F-16 jets.

“It doesn’t change our math when it comes to the F-16s,” said John Kirby, a senior US National Security Council official.

“These are sovereign decisions that any country has to make and we respect those sovereign decisions,” he said, later adding, “They have to determine not just what they’re going to give, but how they’re going to characterize it. ”

“I don’t think it’s up to us to characterize Poland’s decision one way or another,” Kirby said, declining to endorse the decision.

Biden, who said earlier this year that he would not send US fighter jets to Ukraine, will not be swayed by Poland’s decision, he said.

Polish President Andrzej Duda's decision to send jets, seen last month with US President Joe Biden, could pressure other NATO allies to do the same.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced his country would provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks in January, bowing to mounting international pressure, led by the United States, Poland and a bloc of other European nations, which have called on Berlin to step up its military support and commit to sending their wanted vehicles.

The announcement was accompanied by the United States, with President Joe Biden saying he would provide 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, overturning the administration’s longstanding resistance to Kiev’s demands for the highly sophisticated but requiring a lot of maintenance.

In addition to tanks, Ukraine has also lobbied for the United States to provide fighter jets, arguing that it needs planes to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks.

But the push has been met with skepticism by US and allied officials, who say the jets would be impractical because they require considerable training and Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.

US and European officials previously told CNN that the F-16 fighter jets were impractical in this situation. Germany has completely ruled out deliveries of fighter jets to Ukraine, while British government officials echoed that sentiment and said they believed it was impractical to send combat aircraft in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Polish authorities said nine people from an alleged spy ring had been arrested on suspicion of “collaborating” with Russia’s FSB secret service agency.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński said those arrested were “foreigners from across the eastern border”.

“The suspects carried out intelligence activities against Poland and prepared acts of sabotage at the request of the Russian intelligence services,” the minister said.

Kamiński revealed that the prosecutor’s office had charged six people with espionage and participation in an organized criminal group.

The court decided to remand the six, he said, adding that legal proceedings were pending against the three detainees on Wednesday.

“The evidence shows that the group was monitoring the rail routes. Its tasks included reconnaissance, monitoring and documentation of arms transports delivered to Ukraine,” the minister said.

“The suspects were also supposed to be preparing for sabotage activities aimed at crippling the supply of equipment, weapons and aid to Ukraine,” Kamiński continued.

Leave a Comment