EXPLANATION: Why does Ukraine need foreign warplanes? | Your money
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In a private video call with U.S. lawmakers over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate” plea for the United States to help Kiev get more planes of war to fight against the Russian invasion and retain control of its airspace.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had given the idea a “green light” and was now “very, very actively” considering a proposal under which Ukraine’s neighboring Poland would supply Kiev from Soviet-era fighters and would in turn receive US Fs. -16s to compensate for their loss.
However, the proposal is fraught with uncertainty and Poland has not been enthusiastic about it in public, largely because Russia has warned that supporting the Ukrainian air force will be seen in Moscow as participation. to the conflict and would open suppliers to possible retaliation. The official comment from Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, was only to confirm the continuation of the talks on the subject.
WHY DOES UKRAINE NEED COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT?
The Ukrainian Air Force uses Soviet-made Mig-29 and Su jet fighters to defend its skies and territory against the Russian military invasion which began on February 24 and has called for more warplanes can continue the mission in the long term.
The Air Force was vastly outnumbered by the much more powerful Russian Air Force, but Ukrainian pilots continued to fly combat sorties and claim combat deaths despite repeated claims by the Russian military that it has suppressed Ukrainian air power and air defence.
WHY NOT US WAR PLANES?
Ukrainian military pilots are not trained to fly US jet fighters and would be far more equipped to handle the MiG-29 or Su aircraft which are currently used by former Soviet bloc NATO members Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Ukrainian pilots could fly MiGs right away, but Poland is not eager to lose significant amounts of its air force without replacements. American-made F-16s become the mainstay of the Polish Air Force as it modernizes its military.
WHAT IS POLAND’S RESPONSE?
Blinken said there was a “green light” for Poland to send planes to Ukraine.
“We are currently actively looking at the issue of planes that Poland can supply to Ukraine and considering how we might be able to replace if Poland decides to supply these planes. I cannot talk about a timetable, but I can just telling you we are looking at it very, very actively,” Blinken said in Moldova on Sunday.
Poland’s response, however, was muted.
“As regards sending planes, I can only repeat that no decision has been taken on this,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said.
Mueller denied allegations that Poland could make its airfields available to Ukrainian fighter jets. Russia alleges that Romania and some other countries it did not name host Ukrainian warplanes.
Meanwhile, Poland has supported Ukraine both politically, by supporting its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and humanitarianly, by opening its border to refugees from the non-EU country.
WHY IS POLAND WITHOUT COMMITMENT?
Despite its supportive stance towards Ukraine in its struggle, Warsaw faces a crucial and difficult decision regarding the provision of its aircraft to Ukraine.
Russia has warned Ukraine’s neighbors against hosting its fighter jets on their territory, saying Moscow may see it as their “engagement in the military conflict”. This could mean an opening of hostilities.
Russia’s words could be seen as a broader warning against aiding the Ukrainian air force.
Poland also borders Russia, through the enclave of Kaliningrad, and has a long border with Russia’s close ally, Belarus. Relations between Warsaw and Moscow are at their lowest since a right-wing government came to power in Poland in 2015.
One of the main issues is where these MiGs, if made available, would be based as they could not be on NATO soil. It is unclear whether Ukraine would be able to house and maintain them safely in the long term, given the war on its territory.
Another issue to be resolved would be how to deliver the planes to Ukraine. Polish pilots, who are also NATO pilots, could not fly them to Ukraine without risking NATO involvement in the conflict, and sending Ukrainian pilots to Poland to bring them back could present similar problems. .
There is also a production backlog of F-16s, which means countries potentially handing over their MiG and Su fighters to Ukraine would have to wait for replenishment for some time.
US Senator Marco Rubio summed it up, saying, “There are complications that come with it. It’s not as easy as putting it back. You have to fly them. You have to park them somewhere in the field.
“And…the Russians launched a pretty – anywhere between eight and twelve rockets at an airport in western Ukraine. And that’s just part of a strategy to deny them places to move this cell,” said Rubio, a Republican from Florida.
Matthew Lee reported from Vilnius, Lithuania. Tom Strong in Washington contributed to this report.
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