Washington (AP) – The United States government rejects the delivery of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine due to the risk of an escalation of the conflict with Russia.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said intelligence services had concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin might misconstrue the deployment of fighter jets as an escalation step. The United States also rejected a Polish proposal to deliver MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine with a stopover at a US base in Germany.
On the one hand, Kirby commented directly on the Polish proposal, but also made general statements regarding deliveries of fighter jets to Ukraine. “We do not support the delivery of more combat aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time,” he said.
Kirby: “High Risk”
Poland’s proposal was problematic simply because the fighter jets were to fly from a US or NATO base into disputed Ukrainian airspace. “We believe that providing additional fighter aircraft offers little additional capability at high risk,” Kirby said. At the same time, she made it clear: “We are not drawing a red line here.”
The plan could “lead to a significant Russian response that could increase the prospects for a military escalation with NATO,” Kirby warned. The potential for an escalation should not be increased, also “in view of the fact that Mr. Putin has other skills.” Russia is a nuclear power. “There is no question about it,” warned the Pentagon spokesman. The US Department of Defense also noted that the Poles had not discussed their proposal beforehand.
Scholz rejected the proposal outright
Poland’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday night that the government was ready to move all MiG-29 fighter jets to the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate immediately and put the machines available from the United States. The proposal was met with surprise and skepticism in the United States: Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz flatly rejected it. Warsaw had previously repeatedly ruled out direct delivery of the plane to the neighboring country, which Russia could interpret as direct intervention in the war.
The United States has now emphasized that it has no interest in hosting fighter jets at one of its bases. However, the Pentagon also made it clear that it generally had little regard for delivering fighter jets to Ukraine. One of the reasons given by the ministry was that this would not significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force relative to Russian capabilities.
Kirby Highlights Ukraine’s Effective Air Defenses
The gain from such a move is “small,” Kirby said. The Ukrainian Air Force also has several operational aircraft. The ministry also said that the Ukrainian air defense system was still functional and effective. However, in a note verbale dated March 3, the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin asked the federal government to supply weapons systems, including “multi-role combat aircraft”.
The decision to allow Ukraine to have Polish warplanes is ultimately a matter for the Polish government, the US government said. The Polish government has previously argued that the decision to broadcast it was up to NATO, and suggested a rerouting via the US base in Germany. Russia had warned that it would be considered interference in an armed conflict if states allowed Ukrainian planes to land on their airfields, which would then attack Russian forces.