Ukraine needs anti-tank weapons more than jet fighters, Pentagon says

Ukraine needs anti-tank weapons more than jet fighters, Pentagon says

The Pentagon on Wednesday scuttled a plan offered by Poland to send its MiG-29 jet fighters to a U.S. air base in Germany for their later transfer to Ukraine.

The U.S. military cited concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the move as a pretext to escalate the war.

Warsaw said it would provide the aircraft to Ukraine, now in the second week of its war against Russia, if the U.S. would make up the loss with a complement of F-16 fighters.

But the Defense Department said Ukraine needs weapons to knock out enemy tanks and aircraft more than Poland’s hand-me-down MiG-29s.

“We believe the best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them with the weapons and the systems they need most to defeat Russian aggression,” chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, shortly after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart.

The anti-armor and air defense weapons still flowing into Ukraine are being used with “great effect” to slow the Russian advance in the north and to degrade Moscow’s ability to control the airspace.

Ukraine still has several squadrons of mission-capable combat aircraft and adding Poland’s Soviet-era fighters to the inventory isn’t likely to make the Ukrainian air force more effective, Pentagon officials said.

The intelligence community has concluded that the Polish plan to transfer their MiG-29s to Ukraine through the U.S. might be mistaken in Moscow as “escalatory,” possibly triggering a Russian overreaction, Mr. Kirby said.

“There are alternative options that are much better suited to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia. We will continue to pursue those options,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to talk to the Ukrainians about their needs and we’re going to continue to talk to our allies and partners about how to best fill those needs,” the spokesman said.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ridiculed the Biden Administration for blocking Poland’s plan.

“It’s weakness, and the Administration’s rationale makes no sense. How are jets ‘escalatory’ when we are already sending Javelin missiles?” he wrote on Twitter.

“Sending jets for Ukrainians to use isn’t ‘escalatory.’ Putin’s decision to invade and bomb children’s hospitals is ‘escalatory,’” Mr. Cotton said.