Poland, US Reportedly Considering Supplying Ukraine With Aircraft From Soviet Era
© AP Photo / Czarek SokolowskiPolish Air Force Mig-29 aircrafts perform during a military parade celebrating the Polish Army Day in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015.
© AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, former Soviet bloc members, including Poland, received armaments, ammunition, and other equipment. For instance, some of the Ukraine military’s gear is made up of weapons from the Soviet era.
The US is considering a deal in which Poland would deliver Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine in exchange for American F-16 jet fighters, in the latest effort to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons in the current crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
According to sources within the US government, the agreement would require White House approval, as well as congressional approval.
The development comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's request to Congress for assistance in acquiring more lethal military aid, particularly Russian-made jet fighters.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly asked Zelensky to tell him the one item he needed the most. The president of Ukraine responded by emphasizing the necessity for jet fighters. He also mentioned establishing a no-fly zone above Ukraine, but reportedly stated, through a translation, "if you can’t do that, at least get me planes."
5 March 2022, 11:25 GMT
Russian-made military jets are in the hands of Eastern European NATO member states, and could be moved to Ukraine, according to the outlet. Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate representing Illinois, suggested that the United States assist with the aircraft transfer.
“We must eliminate every obstacle to providing every measure of support to Ukraine to include finding a way for the United States to compensate our Eastern European partners who wish to donate their Soviet-style aircraft to Ukraine,” he said in a statement, per the WSJ.
However, it is unclear how many Soviet-era planes Poland has. According to the report, the Polish Air Force has a fleet of at least a few-dozen F-16s. There are a number of "challenging practical questions," the sources said, including getting the planes to Ukraine. They reportedly claimed that whether or not to provide Soviet-era planes is a "sovereign decision" for Poland, and that the details of any deal would need to be worked out with Warsaw.
“We are working with the Poles on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies,” according to the Biden administration official.
Despite Ukrainian leadership's entreaties, the US and NATO have refused to directly intervene in the crisis. Zelensky has advocated for a no-fly zone above his country, but Biden and other allies have dismissed the proposal as it could be seen by the Kremlin as an escalation leading to further violence. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated earlier in the week that the organization is a defensive alliance that does not seek conflict with Russia.
Zelensky was speaking with Congress' members via video chat earlier on Saturday, reportedly backing a proposal to prohibit Russian oil exports into the US. According to the report, there were around 200 members of the House and Senate in the call.
Over the course of the ongoing operation, Biden has reiterated on several occasions that the US military will not enter Ukraine, but he did indicate that up to $350 million in additional military assistance would be sent, including "lethal defensive assistance."
Last week, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine after the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics appealed for help in defending themselves against forces from Kiev. In response, Western countries around the world have rolled out multiple sanctions against Moscow.
Russia has announced that the aim of the special operation is to demilitarize and "de-nazify" Ukraine and stressed that only military infrastructure is being targeted. Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.