Poland will become the first NATO country to send fighter jets to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced on March 16 that his government will send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in “the next few days.”
“They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition,” said Duda.
Duda’s announcement came the day after Piotr Mueller, a spokesman for the Polish government, said other countries had pledged to send fighter jets to aid Ukrainian forces.
Slovakia is expected to send fighter jets to Ukraine in the near future.
“I think it’s time to make a decision,” wrote Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad in a Facebook post on March 16. “People in Ukraine are dying, we can really help them. … This is inhumane and irresponsible.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has requested Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger supply his country with MiG-29 fighter jets at a European Council meeting on Feb. 9.
German officials did not immediately confirm it will send MiGs, reacting to Poland’s announcement with seeming confusion.
“So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters, per AP News. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
The United States also appears unlikely to follow suit.
“These are sovereign decisions for any country to make and we respect those sovereign decisions,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on March 16. “As with every other contribution by every other nation, they get to determine not only what they’re going to give but how they’re going to characterize it.”
“It doesn’t change our calculus with respect to F-16s,” Kirby said. “It’s not on the table right now.”
Kirby also said it is not “our place to characterize Poland’s decision one way or another.”
The U.S. and several NATO nations have agreed to supply Ukraine with battle tanks, advanced rockets and other weaponry, including artillery shells. Their efforts have received mixed reactions for the leaders of European nations.
“Ukraine needs fighter jets … missiles, tanks. We need to act,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said at a February press conference in Latvia, per the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Reinsalu’s comment coincided with remarks from Croatia President Zoran Milanovic, who said the Western arms supply would prolong the war.
“I am against sending any lethal arms there,” Milanovic said while speaking with reporters on Jan. 30.“It prolongs the war.”
“What is the goal? Disintegration of Russia, change of the government?” he said. “There is also talk of tearing Russia apart. This is mad.”
Because MiG-29 fighter jets are already used by the Ukrainian air force, the Polish planes are expected to be put into use immediately.