Did Blinken Put Poland Outside NATO Protection if It Transfers New Fighter Aircraft to Ukraine?

Did Blinken Put Poland Outside NATO Protection if It Transfers New Fighter Aircraft to Ukraine?
(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

If you were an adult in 1990 and had any political awareness, you probably know the story of US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. On July 25, Glaspie was summoned to the presidential palace in Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein and foreign minister Tariq Aziz on the subject of Kuwaiti “aggression” against Iraq. In the course of Hussein’s litany complaint about the Kuwaitis, one of which was Kuwait selling oil too cheap, Glaspie remarked:

I think I understand this. I have lived here for years. I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

At the time, this was viewed as having given the green light to Hussein to invade Kuwait without worrying about an American response.*

After yesterday, I wonder if we’ve created another situation for the war in Ukraine to spread by what we’ve said or failed to say.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, former Warsaw Pact countries who are all too familiar with the fraternal leadership of Russia were quick off the mark to supply Ukraine with weapons and supplies to allow them to resist Russia. Some countries put together a plan to provide the Ukrainian Air Force with 70 additional fighter or attack aircraft: 56 MiG-29s from Poland (28 aircraft), Slovakia (12), and Bulgaria (16), and 14 Su-25s from Bulgaria.

The plan was for the aircraft to be ferried to an airbase in Poland, where they would be married up with Ukrainian pilots and flown home. I have some questions about the whole plan. The Western MiGs and Sukhois are not off-the-assembly-line aircraft. They have Western avionics, and their powerplants have been upgraded. As such, they are not the same aircraft operated by the Ukrainian Air Force. I haven’t read any authoritative account of how the Ukrainians plan to maintain these aircraft, and one can’t help but wonder if the plan isn’t to service them in Poland, fly them to a base in Ukraine, run a few missions there, and return to Poland. Last Wednesday, it looked like the whole deal was breaking down. Read the whole story at Transfer of NATO Aircraft to Ukraine Falls Through as Zelensky Resumes His Campaign for a No-Fly Zone.

As it turned out, the deal didn’t break down because it was impractical; it broke down due to the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Biden junta, see Revealed: The Real Reason That Deal to Send Fighter Jets to Ukraine Fell Through. This is par for the course — the single biggest stumbling block to a unified Western response to Russia’s aggression has been Joe Biden. Biden is so totally dependent upon the good offices of Russia to negotiate a nuclear pact with Iran that he can’t crack down hard on Russia and is forcing our allies to pull their punches as well, see Will Biden Betray Ukraine and NATO by Lifting Sanctions to Get Putin’s Help With a New Iran Nuclear Deal?

On Sunday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed the subject on Meet the Press. (The video is queued to the quote for your convenience.)


And joining me now from Moldova is Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Secretary Blinken, welcome back to Meet the Press.


Thanks, Chuck.


I want to start with some of the asks that President Zelenskyy made of Congress yesterday morning here, our time, and I assume he made some similar asks in his phone call with President Biden. We’ve got a bullet points here, the no-fly zone, more planes, drones and lethal aid, a full ban on Russian oil imports, and to terminate Russia’s preferential trading status. I want to set aside the no-fly zone situation here for a minute. Let’s start with planes. It seems that we’re close, this idea of essentially U.S. fighter jets to Poland, in exchange Poland sends Russian-made jets to Ukraine. Is that going to happen? And how quickly can it happen?


Well, first, let me say this, President Zelenskyy’s been a remarkable leader. He’s been the embodiment of the Ukrainian people and everything they’re doing to resist this, this Russian aggression. And President Biden’s in regular contact with him, as he was just yesterday. On this question of planes, yes, we’re talking very actively about this, looking at what we could do to backfill Poland. If it chooses to send the MiGs and the Su-planes that it has to Ukraine, how we can help by backfilling what they’re giving to the Ukrainians. So that’s in very active discussion as we speak.


You said if, if Poland – that’s a Polish decision, not a NATO decision?


It’s a, it’s a sovereign decision by Poland. If they choose to do it, we want to make sure that we can help them and, again, backfill what they’re giving so that they don’t have any loss in their own ability —


So we are 100% –


– to provide security –


– going to do this. If any of these NATO nations that have these Russian-made planes donate them to the Ukraine, Ukraine, we’re going to backfill, if they’re a NATO ally.


Well, look, we got to – we’d have to work through each case on its, on its own merits. Got to make sure we’re able to do something if that’s what a country’s requesting in return for, for sharing the jets that they have.

Let’s take a moment here to consider what Putin has said. He has declared that an attack on Russian forces coming from any country outside Ukraine will result in Russia considering that as “participation in the armed conflict.”  This quote is in the context of the possible NATO no-fly zone, but here is a guy who claims he wants to “denazify” a country literally headed by a Jewish guy.

In my interpretation, Blinken just told Poland, “You’re on your own, Scooter.” He said you are free to send aircraft to Ukraine, but it is not part of any NATO operation.

Suppose Putin interprets aircraft ferrying from Poland to Ukraine as an imminent attack on Russian forces and lobs a missile or three at the airbase. Would we consider that as triggering the mutual defense provisions of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty?

The topic of transferring aircraft is the subject of a lot of tension in Poland, too. Witness this exchange between a Polish media outlet and the Polish prime minister’s office.

This is sort of ambiguous. It can be interpreted that Polish aircraft will not participate in combat operations in Ukraine or that Poland won’t transfer aircraft to Ukraine to be used in combat. The tweet used by the Chancery to give its tweet emphasis clearly refers to operations by the Polish Air Force and not to transferring ownership. (Just now, the Pentagon briefing gave the impression that the aircraft transfer is underway.)

If those aircraft are transferred, there is no easy and clean way to do it and not give Putin the opportunity to take a shot at Poland if he wishes.

*I acknowledge that this interpretation has been subsequently subjected to revisionism, but I’m staying with the original interpretation.

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