Poland Will Be First in NATO to Give Ukraine Jets

President plans to send a dozen MiG-29s, though Germany sounds puzzled
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2023 2:53 PM CDT
Poland Promises Ukraine Fighter Jets, a NATO First
People protest Russia's aggression against Ukraine in front of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw last month.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland's president said Thursday that his country plans to give Ukraine around a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make it the first NATO member to fulfill the Ukrainian government's increasingly urgent requests for warplanes. President Andrzej Duda said that Poland would hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes "within the next few days" and that the rest needed servicing and would be supplied later, the AP reports. The Polish word he used to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19. "They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition," Duda said of the aircraft.

He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, though Slovakia has said it would send its disused MiGs to Ukraine. Poland also was the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks. On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said other countries had pledged MiGs to Kyiv, but he did not name them. Poland and Slovakia had indicated they were ready to hand over their planes, but only as part of a wider international coalition doing the same. Germany's government appeared to have been caught off guard by Duda's announcement. "So far, everyone has agreed that it's not the time to send fighter jets," German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters.

Before Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it's unclear how many of them remain in service after more than a year of fighting. The debate over whether to provide non-NATO country Ukraine with fighter jets started last year, with NATO allies expressing concern about escalating the alliance's role in the war. Duda said Poland's air force would replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s. Poland has taken in more Ukrainians than any other nation during the refugee exodus sparked by the Russian invasion, per the AP.

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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