For several days, some media have been announcing that the Ukrainian Air Force is about to receive second-hand aircraft from Poland and that it will be able to use them from air bases in that country. This is a completely unfounded rumor and is denied in this article.
A background of support for Ukraine
On March 6, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was interviewed by Margaret Brennan on her show Face the Nation. During that interview, she asked a question about what new steps the U.S. might take on the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Brennan: "NATO has said none of its 30 members are willing to set up a no-fly zone. President Biden has been very clear he has no interest in that or combat troops. But what more can the United States do here? If, for instance, the Polish government, a NATO member wants to send fighter jets, does that get a green light from the U.S., or are you afraid that that will escalate tension?"
The Secretary of State then responded that the United States would support this and is currently in discussions with Poland to replace the various Polish equipment already given to Ukraine, but also the equipment that will be delivered, whether it is weapons or aircraft.
On the same day, Steven Herman, one of the journalists attached to the White House published a tweet announcing that Ukraine would use combat aircraft from foreign air bases.
Two problematic and quickly denied rumors
These two announcements combined then caused quite a stir in the press: the autonomy of the MiG-29s very clearly demonstrates that the aircraft will be based at air bases located in NATO member states, thus insinuating that the bases would be untouchable for the Russians.
However, the Twitter account of the Polish Prime Minister's Chancellery quickly denied both reports: no Polish MiG-29s will be delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force and no Ukrainian fighter aircraft will be based in Poland.
What is the significance of this message?
This awkward wording probably means that in case of supplying aircraft to Ukraine, they would be retrieved from the territory of the supplying country (e.g. Poland) by Ukrainian pilots trained on Mig-29s in order to bring them back to their country. The fact that Ukraine uses Mig-29s suggests that it has pilots capable of recovering the planes, although modernizations of the Polish fleet probably requires some upgrades of Ukrainian pilots. The option seems less and less credible, however, as the destruction of Ukrainian airports seems increasingly likely (a Ukrainian Su-22 was still seen in flight on March 5, and two Su-25s on March 6).
The donation of aircraft, an escalation?
In the past, the USSR has provided aircraft (and pilots) to many countries at war with the United States, without this being considered as an entry of the Soviet bloc: wars of the Koreas, Vietnam, Arab-Israeli conflicts... Conversely, the supply of equipment in Afghanistan following the invasion of the country by the USSR from 1979 to 1989 was limited to missile systems recovered from the stocks of Arab armies defeated by Israel, without going as far as the supply of aircraft (this support having been sufficient to generate a guerrilla warfare eventually leading the USSR to withdraw from the country).
Turkey, for its part, has openly declared that it would continue to provide Bayraktar TB2 drones to the warring Ukraine.
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