Saturday, July 2, 2022

US has halted Poland’s plan to send fighter jets to Ukraine

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The Pentagon this week rejected a proposal from Poland to supply the Ukrainian Air Force with MiG-29 fighter jets, which Defense Ministry spokesman John Kirby described as not “tenable” due to the risk of open conflict between NATO and Russia.

Had the deal gone through, Poland would have transferred 28 MiG jets to Ukraine via the United States, while the US would have sent replacement F-16s to supplement the Polish Air Force. However, the Biden administration’s concerns over escalating US involvement in the conflict appear to have held back the deal.

While Ukraine’s air defenses have held up surprisingly well over the past two and a half weeks, especially given the size and possibilities of the Russian Air Force has asked the Ukrainian government for additional fighter jets as Russian forces target cities such as Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kiev with aerial bombardments in addition to shelling. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly the Soviet Union-made MiG-29s, some of which are already in service in Ukraine, so Poland’s offer could in theory have had an immediate impact on Ukraine.

But the proposal is not as simple as it seems and apparently it surprised US diplomats when Poland announced the plan on Tuesday. Previously, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had: indicated that Poland that would send fighter jets to Ukraine would get “green light” from the Biden administration, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to NATO, also supported the plan in an appearance on ABC’s This week last Sunday.

“We have been in close consultation with the Polish government and with our other NATO allies on this matter,” Thomas-Greenfield said at the time. “We have in no way opposed the Polish government to supplying these jets to Ukraine, and we are, as you pointed out, working to see how we can replenish them.”

However, the proposal put forward by Poland on Tuesday would have involved the US more directly than the plan initially supported by Blinken and Thomas-Greenfield. Poland’s updated plan would have sent the MiG-29s to Ukraine via the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which also houses the headquarters of NATO’s Allied Air Command. Such a move could have more directly linked both sides to Ukraine’s war effort.

That added risk appears to have: eventually sunk the deal, though if Alexander Ward and Joseph Gedeon of Politico point out:Poland could still unilaterally supply the jets if desired.

But even then there are questions about the impact of such a transfer. US and NATO officials have said 28 extra jets may not be essential in the current context, where Russia has more modern aircraft, and Ivo Daalder, the former US ambassador to NATO, told cafemadrid on Sunday that there are also technical difficulties. could be. †

“I think if we can supply fighter jets to Ukraine and the Ukrainians can use them, that’s a good idea,” he said, but it’s unclear “how many changes have been made to the Polish MiGs and whether therefore the Ukrainian pilots can use them.” really fly.”

In a Thursday press conference alongside US Vice President Kamala Harris, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country wants to ensure its own security, support Ukraine and be a responsible member of NATO.

“We wanted NATO as a whole to take a common decision so that Poland remains a credible member of NATO,” said Duda, “not a single country decides on important issues affecting NATO’s security as whole.”

Preliminary negotiations between the US and Poland about getting the jets to Ukraine were on roadblocks, according to reports by Paul McLeary of Ward and Politicodue to the not insignificant risk that the jets “depart from a US/NATO base in Germany to enter the airspace disputed with Russia over Ukraine”, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirbywhich “raises serious concern for the entire NATO alliance.”

According to Daalder, that part of the plan – moving the jets to Ukraine – is the biggest problem, more than the jets themselves.

“My feeling is that I don’t see a big difference between Javelins and Stingers and air defense systems and steering MiGs,” he told cafemadrid. “I don’t believe in the idea that” [sending fighter jets] escalates. [Putin] believes that everything we do escalates.”

However, he agrees with Kirby that the transfer causes problems. “I think it’s not so much a political question, but rather an operational, technical question of how you would do this” without further escalating the conflict, Daalder said.

The US is on a cautious line in its support for Ukraine

The US and Europe have poured a huge amount of military aid into Ukraine since Russia invaded in late February, but confusion over Poland’s jet transfer plan underscores the cautious line Western countries are taking to prevent the conflict from escalating.

Specifically, a jet transfer to Ukraine would be much more risky than delivering more ground weapons of the type the US and other NATO countries have already supplied, Olga Oliker, program director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group, told cafemadrid.

According to Oliker, it is more a ‘question of direct involvement in the conflict by NATO member states’ than a question of provocation. “Supplying weapons to the border, which the Ukrainians pick up and deliver, seems difficult to interpret as direct involvement. With aircraft, which can involve training, maintenance and also the logistics of who they are flying from where and when, there are many ways things can go wrong.”

The Biden administration has also rejected Ukrainian requests for other forms of aid, including establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Not only would maintaining a no-fly zone require huge resources, but it would also be a major escalation: As cafemadrid’s Zack Beauchamp explained on Thursday, even a limited no-fly zone would likely escalate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine into a gun war. between Russia and NATO.

“We all want to help the Ukrainians, but that doesn’t mean that everything people come up with is feasible,” Daalder said.

Meanwhile, more familiar forms of military aid from NATO countries are still pouring into Ukraine for months now: drones from Turkey, Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles from the US and Europe, and a variety of other weapon systems of NATO member states have already been used with great success.

Aside from concerns about escalation over other types of aid – such as fighter jets – US officials say they believe the continued flow of weapons is the best way to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

“We believe that the most effective way to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia is to provide increased quantities of anti-tank weapons and air defense systems, which is underway with the international community,” Air Force General Tod Wolters said in a statement. commander in chief of NATO. Europe and Head of US European Command, told the Washington Post† “The Ukrainians are now making excellent use of these weapons.”

Oliker echoed that sentiment to cafemadrid: “As counter-intuitive as this may seem, it’s very likely those smaller things Ukraine needs more, although they’re less exciting for photos and the like,” she said. “Ukraine currently has many more people under arms than under normal circumstances, and they all need to be supplied.”

The US and its allies in Europe have also leveraged an unprecedented array of economic sanctions against Russia and its oligarch class — an effort that the Kremlin has described: as ‘economic war’.

According to the Post, plans are currently underway to provide Ukraine with additional lethal weapon systems, as well as much-needed humanitarian aid and fuel. However, some US politicians are urging the Biden administration to do more, such as working with NATO partners to provide S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and radar systems that detect the location of incoming enemy fire.

“In any case, once the Russians know you have that, they can’t just sit there and lob round after round after round,” Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL), who has served in the U.S. Special Forces, told the Post. “It degrades their ability to just sit there and hit you. Of course they have to move because now you have the opportunity to counteract the battery.”

As Ukrainians hold out against the Russian invasion, Ukraine will likely need more help from NATO countries; however, as Oliker told cafemadrid, it will remain difficult to decide how and what to bid.

“Essentially, both Russia and NATO are trying to scare each other with the risk of escalating war with the other, if certain borders are crossed,” Oliker said. “Neither of them wants that war, but they are willing to wage that war under certain conditions. It makes for a rather complicated dance.”

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