A US-led deal to get Ukraine Polish warplanes appears to be dead after the Biden administration shot down an offer from Poland, Politico reports.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy and security chief, told reporters last month that the EU would provide Ukraine with war jets.
Ukraine’s government touted the statement and even said that Ukrainian pilots were sent to Poland to bring the planes into the country.
But the deal was shot down by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who said that Polish jets would not enter Ukrainian airspace. The Slovakian and Bulgarian governments also refused to provide warplanes to the Ukrainians.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week floated a deal where Poland would send the warplanes to Ukraine and the US would provide Poland with new F-16 jet fighters.
Poland has a “green light” to send its warplanes, he said. “In fact, we’re talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to do to backfill their needs if, in fact, they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians.”
Deal falls apart:
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, the Polish government said it would turn the planes over to the United States airbase in Germany and the U.S. could hand them to Ukraine.
The announcement surprised the Biden administration.
“To my knowledge, it wasn’t pre-consulted with us that they planned to give these planes to us,” Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of State for political affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I was in a meeting where I ought to have known about that just before I came. So I think that actually was a surprise move by the Poles.”
The administration rejected Poland’s proposal.
“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,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Deal appears dead:
Despite pleas from Kyiv to provide warplanes, the deal appears to be dead.
“We do not support the transfer of the fighters to the Ukrainian air force at this time and have no desire to see them in our custody either,” Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.
Kirby claimed that the Pentagon assessed that the warplanes would not materially improve Ukraine’s position but would instead raise the risk of drawing NATO into a direct conflict with Russia.
Ukraine has “many planes they already don’t fly much because of Russian air defense,” a senior administration official told Politico, adding that it’s “not clear what sending more planes achieves.”
Appearing alongside Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, Duda said that his government “wanted NATO as a whole to make a common decision,” about the jets, “so that Poland remains a credible member of NATO — not a country who decides on its own important issues which impact the security of NATO as a whole.”