Poland has announced that it will send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days, becoming the first NATO country to do so since Russia invaded its eastern neighbour last year. The move is seen as a gesture of solidarity and support for Ukraine, which has been struggling to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
The Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday that the four Soviet-era aircraft would be delivered in full working order, and that more jets would be handed over in the future. He added that Poland was acting as part of a wider Western coalition that was providing military assistance to Ukraine, including weapons, training and advisers.
The MiG-29 is a twin-engine jet fighter that was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. It is capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, and has a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 (about 2,400 km/h). Poland inherited about 40 MiG-29s from the former Warsaw Pact after the end of the Cold War, but has been gradually replacing them with newer F-16s from the United States.
The decision to send fighter jets to Ukraine is a bold move by Poland, which shares a border with both Ukraine and Russia. Poland has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and has repeatedly called for stronger sanctions and deterrence measures by NATO and the European Union. Poland has also hosted several NATO exercises and troops on its soil, as well as US missile defense systems.
However, Poland’s move also risks provoking Russia’s ire and further escalating tensions in the region. Russia has denounced any foreign military aid to Ukraine as interference in its internal affairs, and has accused NATO of encircling and threatening its security interests. Russia has also deployed thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, raising fears of a possible invasion or annexation of more territory.
Some NATO allies have also expressed reservations about sending fighter jets to Ukraine, arguing that it could worsen the situation or trigger an unwanted conflict. Germany ruled out fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine completely, while UK government officials said that they believed it was not practical to send jets into Ukraine. They suggested instead focusing on diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully.
The transfer of fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine comes amid renewed efforts by Western leaders to de-escalate tensions with Russia and revive dialogue on various issues. US President Joe Biden recently held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where they discussed arms control, cybersecurity, human rights, and regional conflicts. They also agreed to hold a summit meeting later this year.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed Poland’s gesture of support, saying that it showed that his country was not alone in facing Russian aggression. He also thanked other NATO allies for their assistance and solidarity, saying that he hoped for more cooperation in strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities.