Poland declared its intention to provide four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the first NATO member to do so – a significant step in Kyiv’s effort to resist Russian aggression.
Andrzej Duda, the President, declared that in the upcoming days, the planes formerly owned by the German Democratic Republic would be passed on after being serviced. Reportedly, there are about a dozen of them.
Warsaw has taken the lead among NATO allies when it comes to providing Kyiv with heavy weaponry. The news that Poland will send Soviet-designed aircraft is a more significant commitment than what has been made by the rest of the alliance and could get other member states to do the same. However, other nations in the NATO alliance have been reticent to go past the resolution made earlier this year to send tanks to Kyiv. The US maintained on Thursday that Poland’s action would not make them take similar action.
“When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels; we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.
At a press conference in Warsaw, the Polish president and his Czech counterpart, Petr Pavel, voiced their support for Kyiv. President Duda remarked that the Czech Republic and Poland “are in the absolute vanguard when it comes to supporting Ukraine, both at humanitarian and military levels.”
Poland has been one of the most vocal European countries to oppose Russia, even before the crisis in Ukraine began. However, the country’s political and diplomatic circles still view Russia through the lens of the Cold War.
“The experience of the last 12 months is that what was considered impossible, too dangerous, potentially escalatory, useless in terms of Ukrainian needs and so on, has proven to be absolutely necessary and urgent a few months later,” one senior European official said. “So we are pragmatic, and we think it is necessary to make sure that, seen from Moscow, there is a cloud of uncertainty about what kind of military support could come if this war was to span over several years.”
Today, Poland became the first country to make it clear that it will send jets to Ukraine.
4 MiG-29 fighter jets will be sent in “the coming days.”
Poland leads the way, as it has since the start of this war.
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) March 16, 2023
There is a prevailing lack of trust in Putin and an opinion that Moscow’s ambitions should be countered at all costs. As a result, Poland actively participates in the European defense community as one of the few NATO countries legally obliged to meet the 2% of GDP defense spending commitment.
Complying with its NATO membership, Poland’s decision to send MiGs is unsurprising. However, this may alter the NATO dynamic, potentially encouraging other nations to act similarly, or it might aggravate countries against NATO’s increased role in the conflict, such as Hungary.
Poland probably intended to exert pressure on other allies by questioning if the United Kingdom and the United States would do the same to Germany.
On Thursday, the White House declared that Poland’s determination to dispatch the fighter jets is a “sovereign decision” that will not motivate President Joe Biden to deliver F-16 aircraft.
John Kirby, a high-ranking US National Security Council individual, stated that their evaluation of the F-16s would not be altered.
“We’re generating combat power to the degree that we believe will provide them opportunities to change the dynamics on the battlefield,” said the US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin.
He noted that any nation has the right to determine how they will contribute to the cause and how they will present it, saying: “These are sovereign decisions for any country to make, and we respect them.”
❗️ Polish President Andrzej Duda confirmed that #Poland will send the first four MIG-29 fighter jets to #Ukraine in the coming days. The Polish president said this at a press conference with #Czech President Petr Pavel today in #Warsaw. pic.twitter.com/Q5atCPdW53
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 16, 2023
Kirby declined to support it, saying it was not up to him to assess Poland’s decision.
Despite Poland’s decision, Biden stated he would not send any US fighter jets to Ukraine and is sticking to that.
As a result of President Duda’s decision to send jets, the other NATO members may now feel the pressure to do the same.
In January, Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, responded to the demands of the United States, Poland, and several other European nations by giving 14 Leopard 2 tanks. These countries had been putting pressure on Berlin to raise their military assistance.
The US responded to the announcement with President Joe Biden declaring that he would give Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks, overturning his administration’s long-standing refusal to answer Kyiv’s demands for the powerful and difficult-to-maintain tanks.
Ukraine has requested that the US supply fighter jets protect against Russian missile and drone assaults. This need for defense is in addition to their demand for tanks.
American and allied authorities doubt the Russian proposal to deploy fighter jets. They deem it an impractical move due to the considerable training they require, and Russia’s vast network of anti-aircraft systems could bring them down quickly.
CNN had reported earlier that US and European officials thought that F-16 fighter jets would not be suitable for the scenario in Ukraine. However, the German government took the opinion further and declared they would not deliver fighter jets to Ukraine. UK officials shared the same opinion, adding that they deemed sending jets to Ukraine impracticable.
The transfer of Polish-inherited Russian MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine is a symbolic yet crucial gesture of support from NATO. The war in eastern Ukraine has seen the Ukrainian Armed Forces battle a hybrid insurgency supported by Russia since 2014. In this conflict, the Ukrainians have been disadvantaged due to strategic parity issues with their adversaries. As such, the supply of these supersonic multirole aircraft could provide a decisive edge in the fight against the separatists.
The MiG-29, known officially as the ‘Fulcrum’ by NATO, is an agile aircraft with powerful air-to-air weaponry that operates in all weather conditions. This includes an impressive array of missiles and cannons with ranges from 5km up to 40km, including air-to-air missiles such as R-27R1s and AA-10 Alamo, plus guns like GSh–30–1 30mm cannons. These weapons give Ukraine an edge regarding capability regarding aerial engagements with Russian forces.
The MiG offers considerable offensive capabilities and defensive advantages, which may be just as crucial for Ukrainian pilots over eastern European skies. For example, the Fulcrum’s advanced beyond visual range (BVR) radar system allows it to detect targets within 110 km, meaning it can see farther than what its enemies can see it approaching or departing from combat missions. This means Ukrainian pilots will be better equipped to intercept intruding aircraft and defend airspace above rebel regions like Donetsk or Lugansk.
“Let’s face it: Soviet jets are ugly, and MiGs are some of the worst offenders. The Vietnam-era MiG-17 and MiG-19 represented a utilitarian tube-with-wings-on-it trend; the deadly MiG-21, a rational sculpture of angles and cones, followed them. This one is different. The fluidly beautiful MiG-29 looks like its larger twin-tail contemporary, the slab-sided F-15 Eagle, to the degree that a Bolshoi ballerina resembles a roller derby star. Once the gallery is complete, the two air superiority icons will be exhibited together, Duford says, or the Fulcrum may pose with a more lithe rival, the F-16. Behind the scenes, he and his fellow curators are penciling the floor plan that will showcase the Fulcrum as the worthy adversary it is,” as noted by the Smithsonian.
This means that even if hostile forces attack traditional airfields, Ukrainian planes could still launch operations from makeshift airstrips closer to strategic locations on ground level, making them harder for enemy forces to target without exposing their troops and resources in the process.
To sum it up, Poland’s decision to arm Ukraine with these multirole fighters should be seen as more than just a gesture of solidarity from NATO but also as a way of giving Kyiv much-needed firepower against its adversaries, who possess superior air forces in terms of numbers and technology. Furthermore, adding modern warplanes such as the MiG will no doubt prove invaluable for advancing Ukraine’s battlefield advantage over separatist forces backed by Russia and provide much-needed protection for its citizens living in rebel-held areas beneath the country’s airspace.
Claims of a Supposed Espionage Network
Meanwhile, Polish officials reported that nine people were apprehended and accused of having ties to Russia’s FSB intelligence agency. It is alleged that the individuals cooperated with the secret service.
Mariusz Kamiński, the Minister of the Interior, declared that the people who had been apprehended were “immigrants from the eastern side of the border.”
According to the minister, the suspects had been instructed by Russian intelligence to spy on Poland and prepare for sabotage.
Kamiński reported that six individuals were accused by the prosecutor’s office of espionage and being part of an organized criminal group.
The speaker declared that the court chose to keep the six individuals in pre-trial detention and noted that prosecution proceedings are yet to be taken against the three detained on Wednesday.
“Evidence shows that the group monitored railway routes. Its tasks included recognizing, monitoring, and documenting transports with weapons delivered to Ukraine,” the minister said.
“The suspects were also supposed to be preparing for sabotage activities aimed at paralyzing the supply of equipment, weapons, and aid to Ukraine,” Kamiński continued.
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