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Shot down: How Biden reached a deal to bring MiG planes to Ukraine

“We are not in favor of the delivery of the fighters to the Ukrainian air force at this time and do not want to see them detained,” John Kirby told reporters. phone conversation between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Polish counterpart. He added that the Pentagon and the US intelligence community assessed the warplanes would not significantly improve Ukraine’s chances, but would instead escalate the prospect of drawing NATO directly into the war.

Officials in Kyiv, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a Zoom call over the weekend with American lawmakers, have pressured to buy European fighter jets, arguing that air power has increased will help them inflict more damage on Russian forces. Videos posted on social media during the two weeks of fighting showed the invading army massed in large, slow columns of congestion on roads where Turkish drones were flying. Ukraine-operated Turkey and ground troops with Javelin missiles turned hundreds of Russian vehicles into bonfires.

However, skeptics within the Biden administration rejected the idea of ​​green-lighting the delivery of Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, and President Joe Biden sided with those skeptics, three US officials said.

“POTUS will do what the military advises here and the advice now is not to do this and instead send the Ukrainian government more things that they can make good use of,” an administration official said. senior told POLITICO. Ukraine has “many planes that they didn’t fly much because of Russian air defense.” The official added that “it is not clear what will be achieved by sending more aircraft”.

The list of objections is long, from the logistics of bringing 28 fighter jets across the Ukrainian border to the more difficult issue of bringing fighter jets from a NATO country into a war zone, which some officials say. that would make the alliance more than one man involved in the war than it is now. The authorities consider that public support to be more offensive in nature than the anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles they are pouring into Ukraine from Poland and Romania.

A transfer might have been possible had the deal been kept secret, but it became impossible after Josep Borrell, the EU’s head of foreign and security policy, stated emphatically to the parties. correspondent on February 27 that the bloc will provide Ukraine with fighter jets. The announcement came as a shock to many, including aides in Eastern European capitals, who had hoped to keep the transfer quiet, US and European officials said.

But the Ukrainian government heard this proposal and implemented it, statement infographic production they are about to receive 70 used Russian fighter jets from Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria. A Ukrainian government official told POLITICO that Ukrainian pilots even went to Poland to finalize the deal and bring the plane back to the border.

However, Borrell’s bloc, much less the countries actually tasked with delivering these jets, never agreed to the plan.

The agreement appears to have been signed on 2 March by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who bluntly stated that Polish jets will not enter Ukrainian airspace. The governments of Slovakia and Bulgaria told POLITICO that they would also not be shipping any of their MiGs to Ukraine.

Then things started to get weird.

On Saturday, POLITICO reported that the White House was considering a bold tripartite deal: Poland would send MiG-29s to Ukraine, and the US would send F-16s to Poland to replace what Warsaw would give away. .

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken confirmed those talks the next day on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Poland has “green light” to send its fighters, he said. “Actually, we’re talking to our Polish friends right now about what we can do to meet their needs if, in fact, they choose to supply fighter jets. this fight for Ukraine.”

“We are having very active discussions with them about that,” he added.

Five US officials said there was mutual agreement within the administration that Washington should work with Warsaw to assist Ukraine. But personnel from the Pentagon and the intelligence community oppose the tripartite plan, specifically because they fear the move will drag NATO — and thus the United States — into direct confrontation with Russia. In addition, the Pentagon expressed concern that the F-16s required to power Poland would need extensive downgrades so as not to be able to compromise the excellent avionics systems. secrets installed on those aircraft.

Biden, according to three US officials, agrees with the Pentagon’s cautious stance and intelligence stance, in part out of concern that Russia will see the US openly help NATO send fighter jets into Ukraine as an act. Climb the ladder.

However, the White House has made it clear to Poland that the US will not oppose its sovereign decision to deliver the fighter jets if it chooses to do so. What the administration cannot guarantee is a quick delivery of the backfill F-16s, telling Warsaw that approving such a transfer could be a months-long process.

To break the deadlock, Poland went to see the Hail Mary. In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, the Polish government said it was ready to deliver 28 MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States Under the agreement, Polish pilots would bring these planes to the Air Base. The Ramstein Air Force was in Germany, and in return, Warsaw expected the US to deliver them to Ukrainian pilots who were fighting against the Russian invasion.

That’s not something the US had initially considered when it first hatched the idea with its European allies.

“The proposal evolves from something the EU will look at to something individual EU allies will look at to the latest iteration we will broker. It’s a far cry from where we were a few weeks ago,” a senior State Department official told POLITICO.

The announcement came as a surprise to the Biden administration.

“To my knowledge, their intention to deliver these planes to us was not consulted in advance,” Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. hospital on Tuesday. “I was in a meeting where I should have known about it right before I arrived. So I think it was really a surprise move by the Poles. “

The authorities quickly rejected the Polish offer. “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies on this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it poses, but we do not believe that the Polish proposal is a offer can pay,” Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday night.

The Washington deadline abruptly changed on Wednesday, the same day German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Polish fighter jets “definitely” would not land at Ramstein. “We would have been somewhere else if this had not turned out to be the Poles putting this issue on the table,” said the senior State official.

Blinken told reporters that the US remained open to a deal, but only one where Poland could send “security assistance” to Ukraine “in the right way”. White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said at her daily news conference that the United States had “understandable concerns” about the Polish proposal.

And that’s when Kirby took to the Pentagon podium to tell reporters – but really Poland – that the US wouldn’t make the deal and listed all the reasons why sending more MiGs to Ukraine was a bad idea. He also noted that there was no light between the State Department and the Pentagon’s positions on the matter, saying that both agreed that the US was not the place to tell Poland “what to do”. what to do or not to do”.

General Tod Wolters, Commander of US European Command, shortly after backing what Kirby said.

“The delivery of the MiG-29s will not significantly increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force. The Ukrainian Air Force currently possesses a large number of aircraft capable of performing daily missions. Adding more aircraft to Ukraine’s inventory is unlikely to change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force relative to Russia’s capabilities. Therefore, we assess that the overall gain is low,” he said in a statement.

Officials in Warsaw, who have been dealing with a wave of Ukrainian refugees and have served as the main hub for pushing Western weapons into Ukraine, do not want to act alone in sending rebel planes. force.

Appearing with Vice President Kamala Harris in Warsaw on Thursday, Polish President Duda said his government “wants the whole of NATO to make a joint decision” on the jet, “so that Poland remains one trusted member of NATO – not a country that decides on its own important issues that affect NATO’s security as a whole. “

But the rationale hasn’t silenced critics.

Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who planned the air campaign during the 1991 Gulf War, said the Pentagon was concerned about Moscow’s response to the jet’s response. force against Ukraine is “pure deterrence against the US military”. “If we were to deliver a pocket knife to Ukraine, Putin would oppose it. A weapon system is a weapon system, and NATO is supplying Ukraine with rifles and missiles, so it’s time to give them the plane.”

Deptula said that even if Kyiv does not have a MiG pilot, the Polish aircraft could be used as spare parts for Ukrainian MiG-29s flying during difficult hours against Russian forces.

While the Russian air force has stepped up its air strikes in recent days, the war in Ukraine remains largely a ground conflict. There have been several reports of air battles and aircraft from both countries targeting ground forces. But US military officials have said that two weeks after the war, neither side maintained air superiority and both sides had significant air defense capabilities.

The Ukrainian armed forces on Wednesday claimed to have shot down 56 Russian planes, although that number has not been confirmed by any outside sources. Videos have emerged of several Russian warplanes being shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Wednesday said Britain was considering sending the Starstreak laser-guided man-portable air defense system, a significant upgrade from the Stinger missile sent by the US, Germany and other allies. . This weapon has a range of more than 4 miles and can take down fighters more effectively than the Stinger.

“We believe that the best way to support Ukraine’s defenses is to provide them with the weapons and systems they need most to defeat Russian aggression, especially air defense,” Kirby said. and anti-armor. “We, along with other countries, continue to send them these weapons and we know they are being used effectively.”

But Ukraine’s Zelenskyy no longer wants to wait for more Western help. He wanted jets, and bombed America and Poland as Russian bombs continued to fall on his country, and as Russian poles continued to grind along his country’s highways. me, slowly besieging his capital city.

“This is not ping pong! This is about human life! ” Zelenskyy said in a speech. “We ask again: Let’s solve it faster. Don’t transfer responsibility, send the plane to us”.

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/10/poland-fighter-jet-deal-ukraine-russia-00016038?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Shot down: How Biden reached a deal to bring MiG planes to Ukraine

Fry Electronics Team

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