At the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin made one thing absolutely clear: The involvement of NATO and other western nations in the conflict would run the risk of a catastrophic, (and possibly apocalyptic), rebuke from the Kremlin. This included, but was not limited to, the use of nuclear weapons.
After getting a good look at the shape of the Russia military, however, many global leader were able to reassess the risk of at least assisting Ukraine, pushing Putin ever further toward whatever line in the sand he thought that he drew.
Now, in a stunning escalation of outside help, Poland is set to send fighter jets to Ukraine; something that no other NATO nation had dared to do.
Poland said Thursday it plans to give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make it the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes to defend itself against the Russian invasion.
Warsaw will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days,” President Andrzej Duda said, and the rest needed servicing but would be supplied later. The Polish word he used to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19.
“They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition,” Duda said.
He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia has said it would send its own disused MiGs to Ukraine. Poland also was the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
The global reaction was mixed.
The government in neighboring NATO member Germany appeared caught off guard by Duda’s announcement.
“So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
The White House called Poland’s move a sovereign decision and lauded the Poles for continuing to “punch above their weight” in assisting Kyiv, but it stressed the move would have no bearing on President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls to provide U.S. F-16s to Ukraine.
“There’s no change in our view with respect to fighter aircraft at this time,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “That is our sovereign decision. That is where we are, other nations can speak to their own” decisions.
The decision comes during a tense week in which Russian fighter jets downed a US military aircraft over the Black Sea, prompting fears that a larger, global conflict may be just over the horizon.
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