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Pentagon: Polish proposal to send MiG fighters to Ukraine 'tenable'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman (AP file photo)

The US military has rejected Poland’s proposal to transfer MiG-29 fighter jets to an American airbase in Germany and then send them to Ukraine, amid an ongoing Russian military operation in the country.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby issued a statement on Tuesday evening calling the proposal “untenable,” after Poland proposed a plan to transfer the fighter jets to the Ramstein Air Base to then go to Ukraine to be deployed against Russia.

“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” Kirby said.

“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one,” he added.

“The Ukrainians are still able to fly and to conduct missile defense,” said a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss current operations. “The Russians continue to fly and also are capable of missile defense — very little of the nation of Ukraine is not covered by some sort of Russian surface-to-air missile capability.”

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the US to establish "no-fly zones" to protect Ukraine from Russian airstrikes and stop buying Russian oil and gas. Zelensky also requested additional MiG-29 jets for his country. But Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that it would lead to catastrophic consequences.

Poland on Tuesday called on other NATO allies to transfer the jets, which Ukrainian soldiers are trained to use, to Ukraine.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said Poland’s offer was not “pre-consulted” with Washington.

“We are now in contact with the Polish government following the statement issued today.  As we have said, the decision about whether to transfer Polish-owned planes to Ukraine is ultimately one for the Polish government,” Kirby said. “We will continue consulting with our Allies and partners about our ongoing security assistance to Ukraine, because, in fact, Poland's proposal shows just some of the complexities this issue presents.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau after attending a summit meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels during which the US-led military alliance reiterated its pledge to expand support for NATO eastern flank members such as Poland in efforts counter Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Blinken emphasized that his visit to Poland was coming at "one of the most urgent moments in the long history between our two countries," vowing that recent deployments of American forces to the country would continue.

The development comes amid reports of a massive US-led transfer of advanced weapons into Ukraine despite Russian warnings that the huge delivery of modern armaments might fall into the hands of terrorists who might use weapons, such as the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft systems, to threaten civilian aviation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region on February 24 to “defend people” subjected to "genocide" there against government forces, stressing that Moscow has “no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory.”

US President Joe Biden called the Russian action an "unprovoked and unjustified attack," and the American media described it as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two assault by Russia.


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