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The US offered Poland to replace its MIGs if they are being offered to the Ukraine military. However, Poland now wants to send the MIGs to the US.

Is this done so that the US can offer them to Ukraine instead of Poland offering them Ukraine? (thus not exposing Poland as a country directly helping Ukraine to bomb Russian troops in Ukraine)

It seems rather strange since moving the fighters to Germany and back Ukraine takes way more time than directly flying them to Ukraine.

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    The flight time is not seriously an issue. Ground preparation takes longer than the extra distance. But Poland might well want to avoid the exposure of having Ukrainian crews fly combat aircraft from a Polish base.
    – o.m.
    Mar 8 at 20:12
  • From what I understand the flight time between Germany and Poland is only a couple of hours and it shouldn't be much longer to get them to Ukraine after.
    – Joe W
    Mar 8 at 20:15
  • @JoeW, with that kind of aircraft it is more like one hour flight time. It is all about who hands them over and where they cross the border.
    – o.m.
    Mar 8 at 20:36
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    They're not "giving them to the US". They are just relocating them to another NATO base, Ramstein (USAFE HQ), to facilitate the transfer. I would suspect that Ukranian pilots are being brought to Ramstein, to take possession of the MiGs. Doesn't really matter though...all these locations are within an hour or two flight time.
    – WPNSGuy
    Mar 8 at 21:38
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    @ErelSegal-Halevi That 1 hour is a significant length of time in a military engagement would be relevant if the planes taking off from Poland and going to the Ukraine were expected to provide an advantage in a single military engagement. I imagine they are intended to be assets used in many engagements, and thus losing an hour or two in the initial delivery makes little difference to their value. Also the negotiating over how (and whether) the transfer will happen is taking days; an hour's physical flight time is not relevant next to the diplomatic processes going on.
    – Ben
    Mar 10 at 3:04

1 Answer 1

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Well, not to the US, but the US base in Ramstein, Germany.

Part of the reasoning appears to be that they are asking for the US to supply them with used F-16s in exchange.

"At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes," it added.

(F-16s were not explicitly mentioned in that Polish announcement, but they were mentioned by the US sources, in the earlier story you've linked.)


N.B.: the US officials were apparently not expecting this:

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday and told lawmakers she hadn't heard about the offer while driving up to Capitol Hill. She added, "I think that actually was a surprise move by the Poles." [...]

Later Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in an emailed statement that the U.S. is "now in contact with the Polish government following the statement issued today," adding that it's up to that country to get the jets into Ukraine's hands.

"It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it," he said. "We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one."

So, apparently the US was less than thrilled to have the "hot potato" passed on to them like that.

Kirby also said "No decisions have been made" on the Polish request to supply them with F-16s in exchange.


As it later transpired, Germany (Scholz in particular) is definitely opposed to transferring any fighter jets to Ukraine.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Scholz said Germany had already sent defensive weapons and "significant" financial support and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

"Apart from that, we have to think very carefully about what we are doing, and this certainly does not include fighter jets," the chancellor said.

So, Poland attempting to make the US be the party responsible for the handoff to Ukraine might have been a way to (try to) force Germany to accept the move. It's one thing if Poland does it, and another if the ("big bro") US does it, in terms of how easy it is say you're against it, if you're a NATO country.

Later the Polish PM made some of that angle obvious when he said:

"We did not agree to supply planes by ourselves because it must be the decision of the whole of NATO," Morawiecki said during a press conference on Polish television.

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    My reading is that they fear Russian retaliation, and hope that an American base in Germany would be safer from that.
    – o.m.
    Mar 9 at 5:40
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    I'm really concerned that the governments are not able to coordinate behind closed doors and at least appearing to be united Mar 9 at 8:51
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    What Piotr says. How did this become public before anything ever even happened?
    – Sixtyfive
    Mar 9 at 13:55
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    @Sixtyfive : a reasonable guess would be to show their public that they try hard to help, even if they most likely decide not to do it because it's not worth the risk. Posturing, basically. Everyone does it.
    – vsz
    Mar 9 at 14:12
  • I think now it looks worse than outright refusal to provide jets. I think fighter jets are strategic weapons and decision just to donate them cannot be taken lightly. Mar 9 at 17:32

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