Ukraine works to defend itself against Russia’s invasion. Now Poland and Slovakia plan to fulfill Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes. They are the first two NATO member countries to supply jets.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had inherited several dozen MiG-29s in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s unclear how many remain in service.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked Western countries for fighter jets. But NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies held off. Most cite concerns about swelling the alliance’s role in the war.
Poland’s government offered planes first. Officials say they’ll give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets. The country will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days.” President Andrzej Duda notes that the rest need service. But he says his country will supply the remainder later.
“They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition,” Duda says.
Ukraine will be able to use the MiGs immediately. Military members already have the training needed to operate the jets.
Slovakia’s government stepped up next. Slovakia will give Ukraine 13 MiG-29s. Zelenskyy appealed directly to Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger for aircraft at a European Union summit in Brussels last month.
Heger announced that his government was “on the right side of history.”
Slovakia grounded its MiGs last summer. The ground was due to a lack of spare parts and know-how after Russian technicians returned home. Fellow NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic stepped in to monitor Slovak air space.
Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov calls the promised planes another example of NATO members who are “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict.”
“The equipment deliveries naturally won’t have any impact on the outcome of the special military operation,” Peskov warns. “But it may bring more misfortune to Ukraine and Ukrainian people.”
In exchange for giving jets to Ukraine, the European Union will give Slovakia $213 million as payment. The country will also collect unnamed arms from the United States, says Slovakia Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad.
Slovakia’s support to Ukraine may be short-lived. The current Slovak government has only limited powers. The opposing side stands a good chance of winning the next election in September.
If that happens, new leaders would likely include those against military support for Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia. Some of those possible leaders have said Slovakia’s government has no mandate to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine.
So far, U.S. President Joe Biden has resisted calls to provide U.S. F-16s to Ukraine.
(A Slovak Air Force MiG-29 goes through a water gate during an airshow in Malacky, Slovakia. AP/Petr David Josek)
good for them they get some
good for them they get some defense