Slovakia has said it will send its Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine along with Poland, expanding Western military contributions aimed at bolstering the country’s air defenses against a barrage of Russian missile attacks.
Prime Minister Edward Hager said that a Tweet on Friday that his country would send 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine, following Warsaw’s announcement that it would send at least four of its own aircraft. The planes will be used as additional aircraft and spare parts for Ukraine’s existing MiG fleet, but they fall short of Kiev’s demand for Western fighter jets such as the US-made F-16.
Before this week’s announcements, both Warsaw and Bratislava said the delivery of the MiG-29 jets could only be made as part of a “coalition” of Western countries, backed by promises from other NATO states to replace the jets with Western aircraft. .
Washington welcomed Poland’s announcement, but the White House said it had not changed its mind about whether to send the F-16s. The Biden administration has argued that sending them would be too expensive and take too long to reach the battlefield.
“It doesn’t change our calculations with respect to the F-16s . . . it’s not on the table right now,” White House spokesman John Kirby said.
Polish officials hope their and Slovakia’s announcements will be an “intermediate step” toward persuading Washington and other countries to change their minds about more advanced fighter jets. Many European countries have F-16s, but sending them to Ukraine would also require US approval.
The Polish official said that while there had been no clear commitment from Washington to replace the MiGs to be sent to Ukraine, Poland expected Washington to be more accommodating to a long-term request for new US-made jets. The official added that if deployed to Ukraine, the F-16s could play an important role in defending the country, as its current air defenses struggle to shoot down all incoming Russian missiles.
Responding to the Polish and Slovak declarations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that they showed increased “direct involvement” of Western countries in the war. He played down the impact of the additional MiGs supplied to Ukraine, saying they “cannot affect the outcome” of the conflict.
“Of course, during ‘special military operations’, all these equipment will be subject to destruction,” adds Peskov. “One has the feeling that these countries are engaged in the disposal of old and unnecessary equipment.”
Slovakia also signed an agreement with the US on the delivery of about $700 million worth of military equipment, the government said. Arms deliveries to Ukraine are reimbursed by the EU – in the case of Slovakia, up to €200mn.
The Slovak MiG decision came at a tense time in domestic politics and was strongly opposed in the Slovak parliament. Hager is leading a caretaker administration after his government lost a parliamentary confidence vote in December. Snap parliamentary elections will be held in the country in September.
Hager’s decision was tempered by the fact that Poland had taken the first step, but Hager’s bypassing parliament was “dangerous as it gave the radical opposition in Slovakia full ammunition to take to the streets,” said Milan Nick, a senior fellow at the German Council. on foreign relations.
In recent weeks, opposition lawmakers have insisted that the caretaker prime minister does not have the power to hand over fighter jets without parliament’s approval. “For Poland, it’s a fairly unanimous decision while in Slovakia it’s the exact opposite,” Nick said. In Bratislava, “This comes at a very delicate moment, not only for the government but also for the entire pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian camp.”