Airstrike-ukraine
U.S. legislators from both parties asked the White House to assist Kyiv in obtaining fighter jets from its Eastern European neighbours after chatting with Ukraine's president via Zoom.

According to a White House spokeswoman, the Biden administration is in negotiations with Poland about assisting Ukraine in obtaining Soviet-era fighter jets. Poland would donate its antiquated Russian-manufactured MiG fighter jets to Ukraine in exchange for the purchase of F-16 fighter jets made in the United States.

“We are working with the Poles on this problem and consulting with the other NATO members,” a White House official said. “We’re also examining into what abilities we might be able to provide to help Poland backfill if it decides to send jets to Ukraine.”

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In a phone conference with more than 300 members of Congress on Saturday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an urgent appeal for fighter jets and other military aid to ward off invading Russian soldiers.

“His major request was for the US to let Poland and Romania to transfer Soviet-era jets to #Ukraine, and for the US to counter by sending those two NATO allies more sophisticated planes,” Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California said in a tweet.

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The Ukrainian government is interested in the vintage Soviet-era jets because its military pilots have been trained to fly them and are familiar with them. After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Poland-Ukraine border on Saturday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called on Western countries to give Kyiv with warplanes to defend the country.

After meeting Blinken, Kuleba told reporters, “It’s no surprise that military aircraft, assault aircraft, and air-defense systems are in high demand.” “There will be a lot more blood on the ground if we lose the skies,” Kuleba continued. The White House spokeswoman stated that it was up to Poland to decide whether or not to provide fighter jets to Ukraine.

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There are “a number of tough practical concerns,” according to the spokeswoman, including how the planes will travel to Ukraine.

Following Zelenskyy’s testimony, senators overwhelmingly supported Ukraine’s request and urged the White House to move quickly to assure Kyiv’s access to fighter jets. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to “support aircraft shipments to Ukraine from Eastern European partners.”

Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, all NATO members, are ready to replace their outdated Soviet-era fighters like the MiG-29 and Su-25 with more advanced fighters like the F-16 built in the United States, according to Portman.

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“They’ve told us they’re likely to contribute these planes to the Ukrainians if they get assurances and a schedule that they’ll be able to buy modern American jets in a reasonable length of time,” Portman said.

A request for comment from Poland’s embassy in Washington was not returned. Last weekend, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy leader, said that certain member nations were prepared to provide fighter jets and other weaponry to Ukraine. However, EU authorities eventually retracted their remarks.