Pentagon rejects NATO nations providing jets to Ukraine

A Bulgarian MiG-29, right, and Spanish Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon II aircraft parked on airport tarmac
A Bulgarian MiG-29, right, and Spanish Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon II aircraft in Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, on Feb. 17. Spain is sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, a NATO partner, to participate in joint air policing missions amid high tensions in the region.
(Valentina Petrova / Associated Press)

The Pentagon on Wednesday slammed the door on any plans to provide MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, even through a second country, calling it a “high-risk” venture that would not significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with his Polish counterpart on Wednesday and informed him of the U.S. assessment. He said the United States is pursuing other options that would provide more critical military needs to Ukraine, such as air defense and anti-armor weapons.

Poland had said it was prepared to hand over MiG-29 planes to NATO that could then be delivered to Ukraine, but Kirby said U.S. intelligence concluded that such a move could be considered escalatory and trigger a “significant” Russian reaction.


Kirby’s remarks went beyond his comments in a statement Tuesday, rejecting Poland’s offer to give fighter jets to the United States for transfer to Ukraine.

He said individual NATO nations can make up their own minds on what assistance to give Ukraine, but it’s questionable whether any would provide fighters without U.S. support.

Ukraine wants the old Soviet-era fighter jets, but Poland fears Russian retaliation, denting Western unity ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit.

March 8, 2022