US Secretary of State confirms plans to supply Ukraine with fighter jets from Poland – POLITICO

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Sunday that the US is working with Warsaw on plans to supply Ukraine with Russian-made fighter jets.

“We’re working with Poles as we speak to see if we can top up anything they provide to Ukrainians,” Blinken told CNN in one interview.

Poland would give MiG-29 fighters that its pilots are trained to fly, and Poland would receive US-made F-16s in return.

Blinken also said the US is documenting instances of attacks on civilians and the use of certain banned weapons that could provide evidence for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine stemming from the Russian invasion.

“Right now we are looking at these reports; They’re very credible and we document everything,” Blinken said.

He added that the US would support Ukrainian refugees and the countries that allow them entry and try to welcome them to the US

“The US is committed to doing everything in our power to support countries that bear the immediate burden of hosting Ukrainians, and then we will address those where appropriate when people apply for refugee status in the US,” he said .

The ongoing talks about the jets, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged Congress for help, underscores the frantic urge to find weapons to outfit Ukrainian forces as they continue to repel the massive Russian invasion.

As Poland considered sending its fighter jets to Ukraine last week, Warsaw asked the White House if the Biden administration could guarantee that it would provide them with fighter jets from the US to fill the gap. The White House said it would look into the matter. The Biden administration was not opposed to the Polish government giving Kyiv the MiGs, which could potentially escalate tensions between NATO and Moscow. Poland is sticking to its fighter jets for the time being.

Talks between Warsaw and Washington are still ongoing, although the approval of new replacement fighter jets to Poland could take a long time.

“We are working with Poland on this matter and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies,” a White House spokesman told POLITICO. “We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to replenish Poland if it decides to move planes to Ukraine.”

Several Eastern European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia retain dozens of Russian-made planes in their inventories and have been reluctant to give up those planes without guarantees from the US that they could replace them.

Poland has been modernizing its aircraft fleet since 2006, when it first flew F-16s, and in 2020 signed a $4.6 billion contract for 32 F-35s, the first of which will arrive in 2024, making these older Russian-made aircraft obsolete will .

The issue of sending aircraft into combat is more complex than the efforts of over two dozen European countries to send anti-tank and air defense weapons to Ukraine. A steady stream of US and British military planes have landed in Poland in recent days filled with these missiles, along with other ammunition, rations and small arms and ammunition.

In recent weeks, the US has deployed 12,000 troops to Europe to stop nervous allies along NATO’s eastern front, most of whom have gone to Poland to join the 4,000 US troops already stationed there. The troops are conducting training missions with the Polish military and could be called upon to assist in a humanitarian emergency if the tide of war refugees overwhelms the Polish and EU authorities.

The White House “has not in any way opposed Poland moving planes to Ukraine,” the spokesman added, noting how difficult it would be to get the planes to Ukraine. Russian officials have promised to attack any convoy with weapons entering the country.

The issue of transferring American F-16s to Poland is complex given the sensitive avionics on American aircraft, which may not always be legal to transfer overseas.

Following Zelenskyy’s impassioned Zoom call with senators on Saturday, during which he urged the US to send planes, drones and Stinger missiles to Ukraine and impose oil sanctions on Russia, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing their full support for paddling Poland with F-16s if they handed over their Russian planes and saying they were working to ensure funds available to finance the transfer.

The recurring effort to get MiGs into Ukraine began last weekend when European Union security chief Josep Borrell made the surprise announcement that several countries would soon be sending fighter jets to the border for handover to Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian officials told POLITICO at the time that several of their pilots had already arrived in Poland for the handover, but the deal had stalled. Bulgaria and Slovakia also rejected the idea, and the Ukrainian pilots got nothing.

The US has already delivered $240 million of the $350 million in military aid recently approved by Biden, with the rest expected to arrive in the coming days.

This article has been updated. US Secretary of State confirms plans to supply Ukraine with fighter jets from Poland - POLITICO

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