Top US diplomat says US working on deal after Kyiv asks allies to send warplanes to fight Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States is working on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with jets amid Russia’s invasion.
“Can’t speak to a timeline but I can just say we’re looking at it very, very actively,” he told reporters on Sunday during a visit to Moldova.
His comments came after Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a call on Saturday with US Congress members, asked Washington to facilitate the transfer of used Russian planes from Eastern European allies.
Multiple news outlets, meanwhile, reported that the US and Poland are working together to provide Polish Soviet-era warplanes to Ukraine.
Four US officials told Politico the two governments are working on a deal, with the question of how to transfer the planes being the biggest difficulty in a potential arrangement.
“We are working with the Poles on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies,” a White House spokesperson told Politico.
“We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine.”
‘We are not standing in the way’
A US defence official confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that Washington is working with allied nations to provide Ukraine with Russian-made aircraft, adding that the US military would backfill them with American warplanes.
Ukrainian military pilots are trained on Russian-made warplanes.
But The Associated Press news agency reported that there appeared to be a logistical problem in sending F-16s to Poland or other East European allies because of a production backlog.
“These countries would essentially have to give their MiGs to the Ukrainians and accept an IOU from the US for the F-16s. The situation is further complicated because the next shipment of F-16s is set for Taiwan, and Congress would be reluctant to delay those deliveries as it eyes China,” it said.
Zelenskyy also spoke by phone to US President Joe Biden
on Saturday, but a White House readout said the two leaders discussed US, allies’ and private industry actions to deter Russia, without mentioning the issue of fighter jets.
On Saturday, Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the Poland-Ukraine border, saying after the meeting: “We are talking about and working on everything.”
“The entire world stands with Ukraine, just as I am standing here in Ukraine with my friend,” Blinken said.