Poland on Thursday pledged it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO member to do so, in a significant move in Kyiv’s battle to resist Russia’s onslaught.
According to a report from CNN, President Andrzej Duda said the planes – from about a dozen that it had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic – would be handed over in the coming days after being serviced.
“When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.
Warsaw has taken a lead among NATO allies in supplying Kyiv with heavy weapons. The announcement that Poland will send the Soviet-designed planes marks a step beyond the rest of the alliance’s commitments and could put pressure on other member states to do the same.
Other NATO nations have been reluctant to move far beyond a decision earlier this year to send tanks to Kyiv, and the US insisted Thursday that Poland’s move would not force Washington’s hand.
Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw with his new Czech counterpart Petr Pavel, the Polish president expressed the two countries’ joint backing for Kyiv.
“The Czech Republic and Poland are countries that are in the absolute vanguard when it comes to supporting Ukraine, both at humanitarian and military levels,” President Duda said.
Poland had been one of the most vocal European nations against Russia – even before the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is still seen by many in Poland’s political and diplomatic circles in a Cold War context. Warsaw has always seen Putin as untrustworthy and Russia expansion is something to be fought against at all costs.
It is one of the few NATO countries that by law is required to meet its 2% of GDP defense spending commitment and is an active member of the European defense community.
Sending MiGs is not an unexpected move for Poland and complies entirely with its membership of NATO. It might change the dynamic within the alliance, acting as a catalyst for more countries to do so, or upset countries that are opposed to NATO getting more involved in the conflict like Hungary.
The biggest question will be if it puts pressure on the United Kingdom and the United States, which will then do the same for Germany. Ultimately, creating this pressure on other allies was probably Poland’s intention.