Warsaw claims it has bolstered Kiev’s air force with 10 additional MiG-29 warplanes, following an earlier shipment of four aircraft. Poland was the first NATO member to make the pledge to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak confirmed the weapons transfer on Tuesday, fulfilling a promise first made in March ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces. Slovakia has also supplied its entire MiG-29 fleet to Kiev, sending 13 jets in two batches, the latest of which arrived in the country last month.
Ukrainian pilots are familiar with the Soviet-era warplanes, unlike the more modern Western craft repeatedly requested by Kiev throughout the war. Polish President Andrzej Duda said Ukraine would therefore be able to use the jets “instantly.“
Though Western governments have stressed “victory“ for Ukrainian forces and insist they are “very confident“ in Kiev’s ability to reclaim lost territory, private comments from US officials, as well as a large trove of leaked Pentagon documents, suggest the upcoming counteroffensive may be headed for failure. On Saturday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov acknowledged that “The expectation from our counteroffensive campaign is overestimated in the world.“
To date, NATO members have resisted Ukraine’s demands for Western-made fighter jets, namely the American F-16, with President Joe Biden even rejecting calls from Congress to send the advanced aircraft. However, the US and UK have already begun training Ukrainian pilots on the more modern planes, and Washington has previously reversed course after declining to supply certain weapons systems, such as the Patriot missile defense platform and the M1 Abrams main battle tank.
Błaszczak voiced hopes that the latest MiG-29 transfer would prod other countries to send F-16s and other jets to Kiev, saying “We are not trying to put pressure on our allies. We only try to encourage them to support Ukraine.“