NATO Divided as Poland’s MiG-29 Offer Risks Widening Ukraine War

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Poland offered to transfer its fleet of MiG-29 jets “immediately and free of charge” to the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday. The U.S. quickly rejected to offer, arguing that Poland could make the decision to transfer the planes itself, and declining to give the impression the war was expanding beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned of grave consequences should NATO and ally countries become directly involved in the war.

“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” he added. “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said there was not any “substantive rationale” to NATO ally Poland’s offer to give the U.S. its fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets for use in the Russia-Ukraine war. One of the Russian-built jets is pictured at the 43rd Polish Naval Air Base airport in Gdynia-Babie Doly, Poland on July 28, 2014.NURPHOTO/CORBIS/GETTY

However, with both countries appearing reluctant for fear of provoking Russia, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that any decision to send offensive weapons to Ukraine directly would need come after a unanimous decision by NATO member states.

“This is why we are able to give all of our fleet of jet fighters to Ramstein,” Morawiecki said. “But we are not ready to make any moves on our own because…we are not a party to this war.”

White House officials were “blindsided” by the proposal since it did not come up during Blinken’s recent discussion in Poland, according to an Associated Press report citing a U.S. official familiar with the talks. The offer could be raised again on Wednesday, when Vice President Kamala Harris is set to travel to Poland to discuss the Ukraine conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged the U.S. and other ally countries to send aid in the form of fighter jets and other military equipment, while also calling for NATO to establish a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine—a proposal that Putin has said would be tantamount to declaring war. NATO has rejected the no-fly zone request.

Although NATO forces have been amassing in Poland and additional member countries near Ukraine as the Russian assault continues, the alliance has carefully avoided direct involvement while the conflict remains outside its borders.

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