Amidst concerns of escalation, the United States is reportedly mulling a deal with Poland to indirectly offer military support to Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has maintained regular contact with American and European leaders throughout the Russian invasion as negotiations are made to secure financial, humanitarian, and military support. On Saturday, Zelenskyy followed up a video conference with members of the United States Congress with a call from President Joe Biden.
According to a letter issued by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the United States has been working on a multination transfer of military aircraft to supply the Ukrainian Air Force.
— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) March 5, 2022
Citing the dire need Ukraine has for air support, the letter addressed to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of state reads in part, “We are aware of discussions between the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia to transfer a portion of their inventory of MiG and Sukhoi aircraft to Ukraine.”
“A number of our Eastern European allies are in the process of divesting Soviet-era aircraft and recapitalizing their fleets with American-made jets…” the letter continued. “We understand some of the potential donor countries may be willing to donate these aircraft to the Ukrainians if they are provided assurances and a roadmap for restoring their fleet with advanced American aircraft in a reasonable timeframe.”
The letter went on to emphasize the time sensitive nature of these actions and stated, “We are committed to providing additional authorities and appropriations at your request to finance such transfers in support of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
At this time, the details of Biden’s conversation with Zelenskyy have not been released. What is known is Zelenskyy tweeted out that the head’s of state discussed “issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.”
As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS. The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 6, 2022
Politico reported that the official White House position remains tenuous on the multination transfer. “We are working with the Poles on this issues,” a White House spokesperson said, “and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies.”
“We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine,” the spokesperson added. There remains an issue of how the final transfer to Ukraine could take place as Russian forces cautioned they would attack any weapon convoys that cross into Ukraine.
The White House hedged their posture on the deal stating up to now they have, “in no way opposed Poland transferring planes to Ukraine.”
At this point, the United States has already conveyed $240 million of a promised $350 million in military assistance, but concerns remain about the adequacy of the supplies and retaliation from Russia.
Zelenskyy has explained that the stinger missiles that they have been supplied with from the U.S. do not reach the altitudes that the Russian jets currently fly at, according to the Daily Mail. To that, Biden assured that he was working on acquiring additional funding. However, no decisions are final and it remains to be seen if the Russians will view this as an aggressive move by the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had already warned Saturday that if a no-fly zone were implemented, “That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are.”
Putin further stressed that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone “will be considered by us as participation of the respective country in an armed conflict.”
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