In the next few days, Poland will become the first nation to send fighter jets to Ukraine, signaling a significant improvement in military support for Kyiv prior to an anticipated counteroffensive.
The precedent set by the initial delivery of four MiG-29s from the Soviet era could lead to other Nato nations fulfilling a long-standing Ukrainian request for jets.
The announcement was made in Warsaw by Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland. He claimed that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany donated the first aircraft that was being handed over.
After 30 years of service, Duda stated that the MiGs were “still in working order” although approaching the end of their useful lifetimes.
The president claims that additional Polish MiGs are being maintained and repaired in preparation for delivery to Ukraine. The 28 MiG-29 aircraft that Poland now operates will be replaced over the coming years by US F-35 and South Korean FA-50 aircraft.
In order to avoid appearing to be directly involved in the conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s sponsors in Nato have only so far sent spare parts for its arsenal of Soviet-era fighters.
Poland asked the US a year ago to take all of its MiGs at its airbase in Ramstein, Germany, so they could be transferred to Ukraine, but the US declined the offer.
All three nations—Slovakia, Finland, and the Netherlands—have stated they would be open to supplying Ukraine with fighter jets.
The US and Britain have so far declined to send their respective F-16 and Typhoon combat aircraft to Ukraine on the grounds that they need too much ground support, training, and large, level runways to be of any immediate assistance. But, the UK has stated that it will offer air support to any nation in eastern Europe ready to give Kiev Soviet-era fighters.
Some European nations have established a policy of ambiguity over what assistance they may offer if Russia continues its war in Ukraine for an extended period of time.
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Ukraine is working to assemble a well-equipped force with recruits who have received western training and weaponry that have been given by the west in preparation for an anticipated military offensive in the spring and summer.
A fight of attrition is currently taking place on the eastern front, and delivery of Leopard tanks and other equipment has lagged behind Kyiv’s expectations.
The Polish declaration came a day after a virtual meeting of defense ministers from more than 40 nations that support Ukraine to plan the delivery of the upcoming batch of weapons. Norway and the US promised two more of their jointly designed Nasams anti-aircraft systems, and Sweden said it would send ten Leopard tanks.
“We’re generating combat power to a degree that we consider will offer them opportunity to influence the dynamics on the battlefield,” said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, according to Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister of Ukraine, will depend on putting the Russian military on the defensive, breaking up enemy supply routes, and neutralizing their air dominance. Reznikov asserted that the delivery of fighter jets will hasten the recovery of Ukrainian territory.
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