As Russia is pummelling Kyiv and nearby cities under its aggressive military invasion, the US is in talks with Poland to transfer the latter's used Mig-29s to Ukraine, a move that could escalate tensions between NATO and Moscow.
"We are working with the Poles on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies. We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine," a White House spokesperson told POLITICO.
Poland Wants American Jets
Poland had asked the US to guarantee to fill the fighter jets gap if Warsaw gives its MIGs to Ukraine. The Biden administration has so far not made such guarantees that it would provide Poland US-made fighter jets to fill the gap. However, the US has said that it will look into the matter.
Washington and Warsaw are currently discussing the possibilities but the authorization and replacement process takes time.
Many Eastern European countries have dozens of Russian-made fighter jets in their inventory. But those countries including Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia have been hesitant to give up those planes without guarantees from the U.S. that they could replace them.
Since 2006 Poland has been putting its efforts to modernize its aircraft fleet. The country also has F-16s. Recently in 2020, Poland inked a $4.6 billion deal with the US for 32 F-35s which as per the deal are expected to arrive by 2024.
The US official also maintained that Washington has not opposed Poland's transferring planes to Ukraine. But the official also laid out difficulties in providing weapons to Ukraine at the time of war as Russian troops had vowed to attack any convoys carrying weapons entering Ukraine.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Washington to send planes, drones and stringer missiles during his zoom call with US Senators.
Meanwhile, two US Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, supporting their full support behind backfilling Poland with F-16s if they were to hand over their Russian planes.
The efforts to get MiGs into Ukraine started last weekend.
EU security chief Josep Borrell had announced that in the wake of the Russian invasion several countries would soon provide fighter jets to Ukraine's armed forces.
At the time, Ukrainian officials had told that some of their pilots had arrived in Poland for the handoff, but the deal was stalled out.
Slovakia and Bulgaria also rejected the idea, forcing the Ukrainian pilots to get back to their country empty-handed.