Poland MiG-29: Warsaw becomes first NATO member to pledge fighter jets to Ukraine

(CNN) Poland promised on Thursday it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO member to do so, in a major step in Kiev’s fight to resist Russia’s onslaught.

Thursday’s announcement comes after NATO allies agreed earlier this year to send modern Western main battle tanks to Ukraine. President Andrzej Duda’s announcement that Poland will send the Soviet-designed aircraft could now put pressure on other countries in the alliance to provide fighter jets.

“We can say with confidence that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda told reporters. “We have a dozen MiGs that we received from the German Democratic Republic in the 1990s and they are functional and play a role in the defense of our airspace. They are at the end of their operational life, but they are still functional Duda added.

Poland had been one of the most vociferous European nations against Russia – even before the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is still seen by many in Poland’s political and diplomatic circles in the context of the Cold War. Putin has always been considered unreliable by Warsaw and Russia’s expansion is something that must be fought at all costs. It is one of the few NATO countries required by law to meet the 2% of GDP commitment for defense spending and is an active member of the European defense community.

While the sending of MiGs is a break from the alliance, it is not an unexpected move and fully in line with Poland’s membership in NATO. It could change the dynamics within the alliance, act as a catalyst for more countries to do so, or upset countries that are opposed to NATO becoming more involved in the conflict, such as Hungary.

The biggest question will be whether that puts pressure on the United Kingdom and the United States, which will then do the same for Germany. Ultimately, Poland’s intention was probably to exert this pressure on other allies.

The move to send fighter jets by Polish President Andrzej Duda, seen last month with US President Joe Biden, could put pressure on other NATO allies to do the same.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his country would deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks in January, bowing to increasing international pressure, led by the United States, Poland and a bloc of other European countries, who called on Berlin to step up its military support and undertake to send their sought-after vehicles.

The announcement was echoed by the US, with President Joe Biden saying he would deliver 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the government’s longstanding resistance to Kiev’s requests for the highly advanced but heavy-maintenance vehicles.

In addition to tanks, Ukraine has also urged the US to provide fighter jets, arguing that it needs the planes to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks.

But that push has been met with skepticism from US and allied officials, who say the jets would be impractical because they require significant training and Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that can easily shoot them down.

US and European officials previously told CNN that F-16 fighter jets were impractical in this situation. Germany completely ruled out warplane deliveries to Ukraine, while British government officials echoed the sentiment, saying they believed it was not practical to send jets to Ukraine.

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