The White House said that addressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for combat jets faces hurdles beyond getting Polish buy-in to hand over some of its planes, but also around how the combat aircraft would make it to Ukraine.
“Where will they depart from, where will they land ?,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. “There are a number of challenging practical questions.”
Poland has emerged as the leading Western contender to provide planes to Ukraine because the country operates modernized Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter planes that Ukrainian pilots likely could operate. Mr. Zelensky on Saturday lobbied members of Congress for a deal for planes and other military equipment to help the country battle invading Russian forces.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US was looking at ways to replenish Poland’s arsenal if it provided the MiGs to Ukraine.
Polish officials have been somewhat cool to the idea, in part out of concern it could invite an attack on the country from Russia. On Sunday, Poland’s prime minister’s office dismissed reports of a potential arrangement for the country to hand over combat planes, though two Polish officials close to the issue said Poland would at least consider the proposal Washington was willing to put together.
The Polish air force inventory still includes just under some 30 Soviet-made MiG-29 combat jets.
“This is Poland’s sovereign decision to make,” Mr. Psaki said, adding, “We’ve in no way opposed Poland transferring planes to Ukraine.”
Securing plans to replenish the Polish air force’s stock of jets, which also includes Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 fighter aircraft, also is not simple, she said. “Procuring new planes and transferring serious weapon systems often take years to do,” she said. “We are working through some pretty complicated logistics on that front as well.”