Poland says Nato countries must act together on jets for Ukraine

On Tuesday, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, urging other Nato members to do the same. PHOTO: REUTERS

WARSAW (REUTERS) - Any supply of fighter jets to Ukraine must be done through Nato, top Polish officials said on Wednesday (March 9), after Washington rejected Poland's offer to fly all its MIG-29 jets to a US airbase with a view to them being supplied to Kyiv.

Ukraine has pleaded with Western nations to provide it with fighter jets to counter a Russian invasion that has forced more than 2 million refugees to flee the country, and US lawmakers have responded by pushing President Joe Biden's administration to facilitate the transfer of aircraft.

On Tuesday, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States, urging other Nato members to do the same. The Pentagon later dismissed the offer as not "tenable".

"The USA does not want these planes to come to Ukraine from American bases," Jakub Kumoch, the Polish president's foreign affairs adviser, told public broadcaster TVP Info. "Poland is ready to act, but only within the framework of the alliance, within the framework of Nato."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also repeatedly asked the West to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but the US and its Nato allies have rebuffed those calls fearing a direct confrontation with Moscow.

Russia's defence ministry has warned that countries offering air fields to Ukraine for attacks on Russia may be considered as having entered the conflict.

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told public radio station Polskie Radio 1 that Poland had to prioritise its security when considering the supply of jets to Ukraine.

"It cannot be that Poland has - as the only Nato country - to take the risk, and the other countries would not have to compensate or share it with us in any way," he said.

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that the Polish offer to deliver the fighter jets to Ukraine via a US airbase could lead to a “dangerous scenario”. 

“This is a highly undesirable and a potentially dangerous scenario,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The MIG-29 is a fighter jet that was developed in the Soviet Union and as Ukraine's military already flies Russian-made aircraft it is the best choice for Ukrainian pilots who already know how to operate them, experts say. Combat pilot training on US-made aircraft can take years and requires a different pipeline for maintenance.

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