Poland's offer of jets in plan to arm Ukraine with warplanes 'not tenable', Pentagon says

8 March 2022, 18:24 | Updated: 9 March 2022, 10:34

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Poland's offer to give all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the US so they can be passed to Ukraine is "not tenable", the Pentagon has said.

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Poland had agreed to give the jets to the US in an apparent plan for them to be used by Ukraine's military.

But Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the plan raises serious concerns for the Nato alliance.

He said in a statement the prospect of jets departing from a US/Nato base in Germany to fly into airspace contested with Russia was concerning.

It was not clear to the US that there was a substantive rationale for it, he said, adding the US will continue to talk to Poland about the matter.

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Washington had been looking at a proposal under which Poland would supply Ukraine with the Soviet-era jets and receive American F-16s to make up for their loss.

Ukraine, whose pilots are trained to fly Soviet-era fighters, have been pleading for more warplanes to help fight the Russian invasion.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that Poland was ready to deliver the jets to the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

"At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities," it said.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he has made it a criminal offence for any Russian planes to enter UK airspace.

In a tweet, he said: "I have made it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to enter UK airspace and now HMG can detain these jets.

"We will suffocate Putin's cronies' ability to continue living as normal while thousands of innocent people die."

It comes after former minister Jeremy Hunt told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr "I don't see why" Polish planes cannot be sent to Ukraine.

He added: "But it's a matter for the Poles, there are implications for them if they do and ultimately they must decide that.

"In all these things what we're trying to do is calculate how a very dangerous and slightly unhinged adversary might react and so I think we have to be cautious and pragmatic."

The US had been urging Poland to send the jets, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK and Nato would support the country whatever their decision.

It came amid concerns Russia could attack Poland if they went ahead with the move.

Mr Hunt continued: "The truth is this has been both a disastrous period in diplomacy in the West because we didn’t stop this invasion happening but actually in the last two weeks a very impressive rebound.

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"The world has seen the West unite, the democratic world unite in a way that few would have thought possible and so I think that gives us courage that we can end up with the right result after this terrible conflict."

Andrew also asked Mr Hunt about sanctions, after the UK and US today hit Russia with oil import bans.

He replied: "If you are dealing with someone like Putin then you have to be prepared to stare them down.

"In the end he's getting $700m a day of income from his gas exports and if he loses that he's going to be in even bigger trouble.

"We have to make these calculations and the most important thing is we have to make the price for what he's done too high and to the great credit of all western governments that is what I think they are starting to do."

Britain said today it was taking steps to phase out reliance on oil from Russia by the end of 2022.

President Joe Biden announced a similar plan for the US, sanctioning all oil, oil products and gas.

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