Mikoyan MIG-29 fighter jets of the Polish Air Force take part in a NATO shielding exercise at the Lask Air Base on October 12, 2022 in Lask, Poland. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)
OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 12:18 PM PT – Thursday, March 16, 2023
Polish President Andrzej Duda says his country will send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, making it the first NATO nation to do so.
“When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.
Ukraine has been requesting warplanes, in order to fight and deter Russian forces, from NATO nations for months but has been repeatedly turned down. Poland has long been one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters in its war against Russia and has also led the effort in persuading allies to provide further assistance.
Duda has stated that Poland will be sending the warplanes in the “next few days” to Ukraine. Slovakia, another NATO nation, has followed Poland’s lead and said that they are also likely to send planes to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Ukraine has been demanding F-16 fighter jets from the United States, but the requests have repeatedly been rejected by President Joe Biden. The reasoning behind the U.S.’s decision was that it would take too long for the Ukrainian pilots to be trained on how to operate the planes. Maintenance and logistics for the warplanes have also been cited as more reasons why the requests were turned down.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov has previously told NPR that he is confident Ukraine will receive Western-made fighter jets in its efforts against Russia.
Poland has 28 MiG-29s, although they have slowly been replacing them with more advanced U.S.-made planes, and it hopes to be able to purchase the cutting-edge F-35s.
Ukraine has been flying the MiG-29s for decades, and its pilots will be able to start flying them right upon delivery from Poland.
U.S. and other NATO nations have pledged increasing support and weaponry to Ukraine. In recent months, Ukraine has received advanced rockets like HIMARs and the advanced heavy tanks.
German Chancellor Olaf Sholz had announced that they would provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks in January. Days after Germany’s announcement, Biden had pledged 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the longstanding stance on not sending over highly sophisticated heavy vehicles.
The U.S. has also been sending an increased number of artillery shells due to the Ukrainian military’s increased use of them as the battle of the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is unfolding.
John Kirby, an official on the U.S. National Security Council, stated that Poland’s move to send fighter jets to Ukraine is a “sovereign decision” that wont change president Biden’s position on sending Ukraine F-16s.
“It doesn’t change our calculus with respect to F-16s. These are sovereign decisions for any country to make and we respect those sovereign decisions,” he said. “They get to determine not only what they’re going to give but how they’re going to characterize it.”
Kirby, however, declined to endorse the Polish President’s decision.
“I wouldn’t think it’s our place to characterize Poland’s decision one way or another,” he said.
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