Poland is offering to transfer all of its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets “immediately and free of charge” to a U.S. air base in Germany, a likely precursor to the jets being delivered to Ukraine.
The announcement Tuesday came after a week of back-and-forth negotiations between the U.S. and Warsaw about the transfer, and amid Russian warnings that delivering the jets to Ukraine would be seen as a provocation.
In a statement, the Polish Foreign Ministry said Warsaw “requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.”
Poland also called on other NATO allies that operate MiG-29 jets “to act in the same vein.”
Ukraine flies the MiG-29 and has suffered heavy losses since Russia invaded late last month. Top Ukrainian officials have since asked other countries that operate the jet to transfer their MiG-29s, since it would mean minimal training for Ukrainian pilots.
By transferring the planes to American custody rather than directly handing them over to the Ukrainians, the Polish government sidesteps the logistical challenge of getting the jets over the border.
Poland’s announcement appeared to catch the Biden administration off guard. Spokespeople with the U.S. European Command and the State Department declined to comment. Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of State for political affairs, told lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon that this “was a surprise move by the Poles.” [Continue reading…]