Standoff between Washington and Warsaw to transfer Polish Mig-29s to Kiev

The three cushion game continues and Kiev is still waiting for its fighters. Washington on Tuesday rejected Poland’s proposal to make its MiG-29 aircraft available to the United States to then deliver them to Ukraine to help it cope with the Russian invasion, ruling that the offer was a source of ” serious concern” was for NATO.

“We do not believe Poland’s proposal is viable,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “The prospect of jets ‘at the disposal of the United States Government’ departing from a United States/NATO base in Germany to enter disputed airspace with Russia over Ukraine is a major concern for all of NATO,” the spokesman added. ready. with whom Washington continues consultations with Warsaw on this subject.

Poland’s surprising announcement

Earlier Tuesday, to the surprise of the United States, Poland had confirmed that it was “ready to move all of its MiG-29 aircraft to the Ramstein base (in Germany) without delay and free of charge and make them available to the United States Government. ,” said a statement from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“At the same time, Poland is asking the United States to provide it with second-hand aircraft with the same operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions for the purchase of these devices, the ministry continued. As a replacement for these Soviet Mig-29 aircraft, US media had said, Washington would have been ready to deliver F-16s to Poland. US diplomacy number three, Victoria Nuland, admitted that her country had been caught off guard by the Poles’ ‘surprise announcement’.

Risk of escalation, but for whom?

The United States is concerned about the risk of a clash between the Atlantic Alliance and the Russian armed forces, which could degenerate if Vladimir Putin’s Russia regarded such military aid as NATO’s direct involvement in the war with “Ukraine.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Moldova on Sunday that the United States is “actively” working on such an agreement with Warsaw.

Poland has about 30 of these Soviet-designed aircraft, but media reports say only 23 are technically ready to be sent to Ramstein. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki insisted at a press conference in Oslo on Tuesday evening that “Poland is not a party to this war and NATO is not a party to this war”.

“Therefore, any decision to provide offensive weapons must be taken by NATO as a whole, on the basis of unanimity. Therefore, we are ready to give our entire fleet of fighter jets to Ramstein, but we are not willing to do anything alone because, as I said, we are not part of this war,’ he continued.

Ukrainian urgent need

For the US government, “the decision whether or not to transfer Polish aircraft to Ukraine ultimately rests with the Polish government,” John Kirby said in his press release. “It’s just not clear to us if there’s any real logic” for such a deal, he added. “We will continue consultations with Poland and the other NATO allies on this issue and the logistical difficulties.”

Only a few Eastern European countries, former members of the Warsaw Pact, officially have Soviet Mig-29s in their fleet, whose anti-aircraft capabilities are those that best meet Ukrainian needs to fight Russian fighters.

The Mig-29s, such as the Sukhoi-27 (anti-aircraft and ground support) and the Sukhoi-25 fighter-bombers, are the only ones that Ukrainian pilots could handle without prior training. The Polish government has also invited the other NATO member states – which have Mig-29s – to follow suit. Located in southwestern Germany, Ramstein Air Base is the largest air base for US troops in Europe.