Ukraine skeptical about NATO state's fighter jets
Ukraine’s military has voiced doubts after Poland vowed to transfer some of its MiG-29 fighter jets, saying the aging aircraft are a welcome addition but will be of limited help, while demanding “modern” US-made planes instead.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced the upcoming weapon transfer on Thursday, noting that Warsaw would send four “fully operational” MiG-29s sometime “in the coming days,” the first batch of around a dozen jets in total.
“These MiGs are still in service in Poland’s air force. They’re in their last years of operation but are still for the most part in full working order,” he said of the aircraft, the first variant of which entered service in the Soviet Union in 1983.
Though Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the deliveries could take up to six weeks at a press conference on Tuesday, the timetable appears to have shifted forward, with Duda stating that Poland is now “on the verge” of sending the jets to Ukraine. It remains unclear how the jets will be delivered across the border and when they will arrive.
Following the announcement, Kiev said that while it is “grateful” for the weapons, the Soviet aircraft would not be enough, with Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat noting that they are “unlikely to dramatically change the situation on the contact line.”
“MiGs will not solve the tasks; we need F-16s,” he told reporters, adding that while the MiGs would “help to strengthen our capabilities,” Ukraine requires “multi-purpose Western aircraft” to “gain an advantage over the enemy.”
Moscow has yet to comment on the MiG transfer, but has repeatedly urged against foreign arms shipments to Kiev, arguing they will only prolong the conflict and make a negotiated settlement impossible.
Despite Ukraine’s continued demands for American fighter jets, the White House has refused to take that step, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby telling reporters that Poland’s decision “doesn't change our calculus with regards to F16s.” However, Washington drew similar red lines regarding other military hardware earlier in the conflict, such as the Patriot missile battery, but later reversed course and authorized shipments to Kiev.
Warsaw previously said it would only provide fighter jets as part of an international coalition, but appears to be moving ahead on the plan alone. While fellow NATO member Slovakia recently signaled that it may be willing to supply its own MiG-29s, no final decision has yet been made.