Slovakia joins Poland to become second NATO nation to offer warplanes to Ukraine

Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet
Slovakia’s government has approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

Slovakia’s government has approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to agree to fulfill Kyiv’s pleas for warplanes to help beat back Russia’s invasion.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said during a news conference that his government was “on the right side of history.” Earlier, Heger tweeted that military aid was key to ensuring that Ukraine could defend itself and help protect the rest of Europe against Russia.

Poland had announced Thursday that it would give Ukraine around a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, starting with four expected to be delivered in the coming days. Poland and Slovakia had indicated previously that they were ready to grant Ukraine’s requests for military aircraft, but only as part of a wider international coalition doing the same.


Heger said his government’s move “is closely coordinated with the Polish side, Ukraine and other allies.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the promised planes were another example of NATO members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict.”

Russia’s invasion spurred a major flow of military aid that helped make Ukraine the world’s third-largest importer of arms in 2022, a report says.

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“The equipment deliveries naturally won’t have any impact on the outcome of the special military operation, but it may bring more misfortune to Ukraine and Ukrainian people,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.

Slovakia will receive 200 million euros ($213 million) from the European Union as compensation and unspecified arms from the U.S. worth 700 million euros ($745 million) in exchange for giving its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked Western countries for fighter jets, but NATO allies held off acquiescing to Kyiv’s requests, citing concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the war.

In response to Poland’s announcement Thursday, the White House said that Warsaw’s move would have no bearing on President Biden, who has resisted calls to provide U.S. F-16s to Ukraine, and that it was up to other nations to explain their own positions.


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Michał Baranowski, managing director of Warsaw-based GMF East, part of the German Marshall Fund think tank, said changing conditions now permit such a move since the initial reluctance to respond to Ukraine’s request.

Many red lines have been crossed since that discussion last year,” Baranowski told the Associated Press. Sending MiGs now “is not the same difficult political sale that it was last year.”

Ukraine will be able to use the MiGs immediately without needing any training.

Zelensky appealed directly to Heger for aircraft at a European Union summit in Brussels last month.

Slovakia grounded its MiGs in the summer because of a lack of spare parts and expertise to help maintain them after Russian technicians returned home. In light of the lack of its own aircraft, Slovakia’s fellow NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic have stepped up to monitor Slovak airspace.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s unclear how many remain in service after more than a year of fighting.

The Slovak government has only limited powers at the moment, following a December no-confidence vote that brought down the ruling coalition formed after an election in 2020.

The next election is set for September, and the opposition stands a good chance of winning. Its leaders include populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who opposes military support for Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia and has said Slovakia’s government has no mandate to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine.

The Pentagon released footage of what it says is a Russian warplane conducting an unsafe intercept of a $32 million U.S. spy drone in international airspace.

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Opposition parties, including Fico’s Smer-Social Democracy party, blasted the government’s decision Friday, threatening to sue.

Slovakia has signed a deal to buy 14 U.S. F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets, but delivery has been pushed back to early 2024.