By Pawel Florkiewicz and Alan Charlish
WARSAW (Reuters) -Any supply of fighter jets to Ukraine must be done jointly by NATO countries, the Polish prime minister said on Wednesday, after Washington rejected Poland’s offer to fly all its MIG-29 jets to a U.S. airbase with a view to them being given to Kyiv.
Asked about the offer of Polish MIGs, the Kremlin described it as a potentially dangerous and undesirable scenario.
Ukraine has pleaded with Western nations to provide it with fighter jets to counter a Russian invasion that has forced more than two million refugees to flee the country, and U.S. lawmakers have responded by pushing President Joe Biden’s administration to facilitate the transfer of aircraft.
On Tuesday, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States, urging other NATO members to do the same. The Pentagon later dismissed the offer as not “tenable”.
“Such a serious decision as supplying planes must be unanimous and unequivocally made by the whole North Atlantic alliance,” Mateusz Morawiecki said during a press conference in the Austrian capital Vienna broadcast on Polish television.
“We did not agree to supply planes by ourselves, because it must be the decision of the whole of NATO,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also repeatedly asked the West to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but the U.S. and its NATO allies have rebuffed those calls fearing a direct confrontation with Moscow.
Russia’s defence ministry has warned that countries offering air fields to Ukraine for attacks on Russia may be considered as having entered the conflict.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told public radio station Polskie Radio 1 that Poland had to prioritise its security when considering the supply of jets to Ukraine.
“It cannot be that Poland has – as the only NATO country – to take the risk, and the other countries would not have to compensate or share it with us in any way,” he said.
The MIG-29 is a fighter jet that was developed in the Soviet Union and as Ukraine’s military already flies Russian-made aircraft it is the best choice for Ukrainian pilots who already know how to operate them, experts say. Combat pilot training on U.S.-made aircraft can take years and requires a different pipeline for maintenance.
(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Alan Charlish, Anna Koper; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Elaine Hardcastle, William Maclean)