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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Poland set to become first NATO country to supply fighter jets to Ukraine

Poland has announced plans to provide Ukraine with a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv’s request for warplanes to defend itself against Russia. President Andrzej Duda said four of the Soviet-made planes would be handed over within days, while the remaining aircraft would be supplied later after servicing. The total number of planes being provided is expected to be between 11 and 19. Poland has also offered Ukraine German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

While Slovakia has said it would send its own disused MiGs to Ukraine, it remains to be seen if other countries will follow Poland’s lead. The government of NATO member Germany was caught off guard by Poland’s announcement, with Defense Minister Boris Pistorius saying he had no confirmation that the move had taken place. He added that until now, there had been agreement that it was not the right time to send fighter jets.

The provision of non-NATO member Ukraine with fighter jets has been a matter of debate since last year, with some NATO allies expressing concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the conflict. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has increasingly called on Western supporters to share their warplanes.

The White House praised Poland’s move as a sovereign decision, but stressed it would have no bearing on President Biden’s position. The US has so far resisted calls to provide Ukraine with F-16s.

Poland has been a crucial supporter of Ukraine during the conflict with Russia. It is hosting thousands of American troops and has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other nation. Poland has experienced Russian invasions and occupations for centuries and remains wary of its neighbor, despite being a member of NATO.

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