U.S. 'Looking Actively' With Poland Into Sending Fighter Jets to Ukraine—Blinken

The United States is considering sending planes to Poland if Warsaw decides to send fighter jets to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.

"We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes," Blinken said during a visit to Moldova, according to Reuters. "I can't speak to a timeline but I can just say we're looking at it very, very actively."

The White House said it was working with Polish officials "on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies," NBC News reported. "We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine," a White House spokesperson said.

The Polish prime minister's office on Twitter dismissed reports of a potential arrangement for the country to hand over fighter jets to Ukraine.

"Poland won't send its fighter jets to #Ukraine as well as allow to use its airports," the chancellery of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted early Sunday. "We significantly help in many other areas."

Blinken's visit to Moldova came after he visited Poland on Saturday, where he met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the Poland-Ukraine border.

"The leadership and courage that he and @ZelenskyyUa have demonstrated are remarkable, and the United States and the world will continue to stand with them and the people of Ukraine," Blinken said in a tweet alongside photos of the meeting.

That day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued an urgent appeal for fighter jets and other military aid in a video call with more than 300 members of Congress.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with the Moldovan president (not pictured) at The Presidential Palace in Chisinau, on March 6, 2022. Blinken said the United States was considering sending planes to Poland if Warsaw decides to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Zelensky, who has remained in Kyiv, told the lawmakers that Ukraine needed to secure its skies, either through a no-fly zone enforced by NATO or through the provision of more warplanes, as it continues to fight against Russian forces.

NATO has refused to impose a no-fly zone, saying it could provoke a widespread war with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday warned that that he would view any country that declares a no-fly zone over Ukraine as a participant in the "armed conflict."

"Zelensky's message is simple: 'Close the skies or give us planes,'" Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said of the Ukrainian leader's plea.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Zelensky had "made a desperate plea," asking the U.S. to facilitate the transfer of planes from Eastern European allies.

"These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer," Schumer said.

The U.S. is considering sending American-made F-16s as backfill to former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe that are now members of NATO and those countries would then send Ukraine their own Soviet-era MiGs, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly, The Associated Press reported.

However, there appears to be a logistics problem in sending the F-16s to Poland or other East European allies because of a production backlog.

According to the AP, those countries would essentially have to give their MiGs to Ukraine and accept an IOU from the U.S. for the F-16s.

The White House has been contacted for comment.