Kamala Harris visits Poland as U.S. rejects fighter jet proposal

Harris said she is visiting Poland and Romania this week to show solidarity with the NATO countries.
Kamala Harris, Joint Base Andrews, Md., March 9, 2022

Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to Poland this week comes amid the Biden administration's rejection of a proposal from Warsaw to send Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine to defend its airspace against incursions from Russia.

Harris said she is visiting Poland and Romania this week to show solidarity with the NATO countries as Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion continues.

Poland on Tuesday made a surprise proposal to send Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to the American Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, to then be transferred to Ukraine's airforce. The proposal is rumored to have included a provision that the United States would replace the jets for Poland.

The offer was quickly rejected by U.S. officials, and on Wednesday Pentagon press secretary John Kirby doubled down on the United States' rejection of all plans to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, through NATO or another country.

"The transfer of combat aircraft could be mistaken by Mr. Putin and the Russians as an escalatory step," he told reporters at the Pentagon press briefing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak on Wednesday about the proposal.

Kirby said that during the call, Austin "stressed that we don't support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time. Therefore, we have no desire to see them in our custody either."

Kirby also said: "Sovereign nations can decide for themselves what they want to do. This idea, the proposal of transferring these jets to our custody and then transferring to Ukraine, that is something we're not going to explore right now."

The Pentagon's decision goes against comments from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the weekend. He told CBS News that NATO countries have a "green light" to send jets to Ukraine and that the U.S. was in talks with Poland to "backfill their needs, if, in fact, they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians."

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with NATO countries to either send fighter jets or make Ukraine a no-fly zone. 

"Together, we need to return to some Western leaders their bravery, so that they do what they should have done on the first day of this invasion: either close the Ukrainian sky or give us fighter jets so we do it ourselves," he said, according to The Kyiv Independent.