The U.S. remains in discussions with Poland to potentially backfill their fleet of fighter planes if Warsaw decides to transfer its used MiG-29s to Ukraine, four U.S. officials tell POLITICO.
The ongoing talks, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleads with Congress for help, underscore the frantic push to find weapons to equip Ukrainian forces as they continue to fight off the massive Russian invasion.
As Poland weighed sending its warplanes to Ukraine last week, Warsaw asked the White House if the Biden administration could guarantee it would provide them with U.S.-made fighter jets to fill the gap. The White House said it would look into the matter. The Biden administration didn’t oppose the Polish government giving Kyiv the MiGs, which could potentially escalate tensions between NATO and Moscow. Poland, for now, has held on to its fighter jets.
Discussions between Warsaw and Washington are still underway, though authorization for new, replacement fighter jets to Poland could take a long time.
“We are working with the Poles on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies,” a White House spokesperson told POLITICO. “We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine.”
Several Eastern European countries like Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia retain dozens of Russian-made aircraft in their inventories and have been hesitant to give up those planes without guarantees from the U.S. that they could replace them.
Poland has been modernizing its aircraft fleet since 2006, when it first started flying F-16s, and in 2020 signed a $4.6 billion deal for 32 F-35s, the first of which will arrive in 2024, making those older Russian-made planes expendable.