As the Russo-Ukrainian war approaches its 6th week of fighting, Slovakia has reportedly said it was considering donating their Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, provided that replacements could be made available to them. This is according to Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

Slovakia is one of the NATO countries that heeded Zelensky’s request for heavy weaponry in preparation for a wide-scale military offensive by Russia targeting the Donbas. It can be remembered that there were claims that the Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas region were being abused and ignored by the Ukrainian government.

Just a few days ago, Slovakia announced that it had sent its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine as an aid to repel Russian cruise and ballistic missiles that have been destroying their cities since the war began on February 24th.

One of its conditions for donating the system was that there should be an immediate replacement for the system as it would leave them vulnerable to an attack without the S-300. The United States, who helped broker this deal, sent its own Patriot missile system to Slovakia, which had been discussed by SecDef Austin and Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad during the latter’s visit to their country last March 17. The missile system was seen to be delivered to Ukraine via train as per open-source data collectors. A similar arrangement regarding the MiG-29s would be pursued, according to reports.

In an apparent attempt to further help the Ukrainians, Slovakia expressed its willingness to provide MiG-29 fighter jets to aid Ukraine in “closing the sky effectively.” It was previously reported that NATO was not willing to impose a no-fly zone in Ukrainian air space due to fears of getting dragged directly into the war.

These twin-engine aircraft are legacy fighter jets from the split of Czecho-Slovakia in 1993. Along with the MiG-29s, they also said that Slovakia had also been asked to send their Zuzana self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. This fits with Slovakia’s national defence aims as it had been working to move away from Soviet-era or Russian-made weaponry as souring relations with the Kremlin would make obtaining spare parts difficult. There is a notable irony that there are Eastern European countries that have joined NATO to protect themselves from Russia, who also rely on Russia to supply and maintain their weapons for them.

Ukraine has expressed the desperate need to close its airspace to attacks by the Russian airforce, and while NATO has so far refused to consider imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine it has also been resistant to providing Ukraine with aircraft they could use to close their own airspace as well. An offer from Poland to provide more than 2 dozen of its Mig-29s to Ukraine fell apart when Poland wanted to tranship the aircraft through a US airbase in Germany to give it the aegis of being a transfer by NATO rather than just Poland. Bratislava has also said they were in a “very sensitive discussion” with their partners about who would protect their airspace if they were to donate the MiG-29s.

When Heger was asked by a reporter regarding the actions Ukraine’s allies are taking to help Ukraine and the possibility of providing MiG-29s to the country in question, he said that the provision of the aircraft comes into consideration.

“This is what we talk about. Yeah.”

“After how the Russian Federation has behaved now, Soviet-made equipment is becoming very risky. Therefore your question is in place and comes into consideration,” said Heger. “Post-Soviet equipment is not sustainable without Russian supplies, and we do not at this moment even want those,” he added.

“This is equipment that we want to finish anyway because we’re waiting for the F-16s,” referring to Slovakia’s US-made F-16 jets set to be delivered in 2024. It can be remembered that Slovakia, in 2018, bought 14 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 Fighting Falcon jets worth $1.6 billion to replace the MiG-29s. Ukraine would need weeks of training in the airframe, sensors and weapons of the F-16 to be able to use the effectively.  There is also the question about how they would be maintained and by whom, as it would require ground personnel from the US and NATO countries to train aircraft maintainers from Ukraine.

However, Heger did not specify how many MiG-29s they were willing to donate, but the country is reported to have around 12 units.

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Two U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-16C fighters from the 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, fly in formation with a German Luftwaffe Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29A of the "Jagdgeschwader 73 (JG 73) Steinhoff" (73rd Fighter Wing), based at Laage, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany (photographer's name: SrA Tana R. Hamilton, USAF, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USAF_F-16s_Luftwaffe_MiG-29_1995.jpeg
Two U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-16C fighters from the 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, fly in formation with a German Luftwaffe Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29A of the “Jagdgeschwader 73 (JG 73) Steinhoff” (73rd Fighter Wing), based at Laage, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany (SrA Tana R. Hamilton, USAF, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

These comments from the Slovakian Prime Minister come after he and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Zelensky in Ukraine. During the visit, he proposed a number of cooperation and military packages to the Ukrainian President. They also visited the ravaged city of Bucha, where the Russians had allegedly tortured and killed civilians throughout its streets.

The US, through a senior defense official, said that it had no objections if Slovakia were to donate its MiG-29s to Ukraine.

“We certainly would not object to it. We have no right to object to it,” the defense official said. He also said that the US was not directly involved in the current deal for the MiG-29s.  This policy of the US not being directly involved in such a transfer seems contradictory as the US is directly involved in the transfer of more than $1 billion in US weapons to Ukraine which includes air defense systems, self-propelled howitzers, armored personnel carriers, ammunition, mines, helicopters, and battle rifles.  The recent transfer of British Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine would have included getting a nod from the US State Department because of proliferation restrictions we insist on when the US sells weapons to other countries.

 

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