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The US is exploring how to send Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine

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The US is exploring how to send Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine

The Biden administration is discussing how to supply Polish Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine, US officials say, with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday making an emotional appeal to US legislators to help get more lethal military aid. Key, especially Russian-made jets that Ukrainian pilots know how to fly.

The White House said a deal was being discussed with Poland that would replace the Polish planes with American F-16s, but Polish officials seemed less than enthusiastic. President Andrzej Duda said last week that Poland would not supply the planes, the office of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. wrote on twitter On Sunday: “Poland will not send its fighter planes to #Ukraine and also will not allow its airports to be used. We provide significant help in many areas.”

The jet-supply arrangement would require congressional approval and is being discussed with other NATO countries. But any such supply would be a sovereign decision of the country involved, not NATO, as NATO seeks to avoid any direct conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine or its airspace.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, while visiting Moldova, said that the United States was exploring the idea of ​​supplying jets to Poland if Warsaw wanted to send its jets to Ukraine.

“We are actively looking at the question of airplanes that Poland can provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill, should Poland decides to supply those planes,” Mr. Blinken said. “I can’t speak to a timeline, but all I can say is that we’re looking at it very actively.”

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There are many practical questions, including how to provide replacement aircraft to Poland and how to get Polish aircraft to Ukraine. US officials said the next tranche of F-16s is ready to go to Taiwan for export, and they are reluctant to delay it.

Mr. Zelensky has regularly asked NATO to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent bombing Russian aircraft, but NATO is adamant that it will not confront Russian forces in or over Ukraine. .

Weapons to shoot down Russian aircraft, such as surface-to-air Stinger missiles, are being shipped in large numbers from Ukraine’s western borders, but it is not clear how easily they are distributed to Ukrainian troops elsewhere in the country. being done.

The EU had explored the idea of ​​supplying Soviet jets to Ukraine, and its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fonteles, had also promised them. But the idea was dropped. Of the EU countries, only Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria still use Soviet-era jets.

Bulgaria and Slovakia said last week that there was no deal to send fighter jets, and Mr Duda, appearing at a Polish airport with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, said, “We will not send any jets to Ukraine.” because it would trigger military intervention in the Ukrainian conflict.

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“We are not joining that struggle,” said Mr. Duda. “NATO is not a party to that conflict. However, as I said, we are supporting Ukrainians with humanitarian aid. However, we are not going to send any jets into Ukrainian airspace.”

Russia on Sunday did not directly comment on the possibility of the West providing Ukraine with fighter jets, but threatened countries that allow the Ukrainian military to use their airfields.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense stated, “Any use of airfields of other countries for the base of Ukrainian military aviation, which is subsequently used against the Russian armed forces, may be regarded as participation of those countries in armed conflict.” Is.”


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