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Did Blinken ‘Green-Light’ World War III?

With the prospect of the U.S. helping provide jets to Ukraine, this war could go from hot to radioactive if we don't tread carefully.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave NATO member states the green light to send fighter jets to Ukraine in an attempt to stop the Russian invasion over the weekend, a move that would fail to provide Ukraine a long-term advantage while escalating the current conflict and risking all-out war between NATO and Russia.

“We’re talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to do to backfill their needs if in fact they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians,” Blinken said during an interview with CBS News’s Face the Nation. The secretary of State also claimed the United States is working with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration to establish “up-to-the-minute assessment of their needs.”

Blinken told reporters in Moldova during his impromptu six-day trip to visit NATO’s eastern front—which includes stops in Belgium, Poland, and the Baltic states—that while he couldn’t discuss potential timelines for the purported aid, the U.S. was “looking at it very, very actively.” The day prior, Blinken was in Poland, where he met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and appeared at a press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. He also briefly met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Kuleba, according to reports, requested more military aid and specifically asked for fighter jets and air defense systems.

As it turns out, however, Blinken may have spoken too soon. When Nexta, a Belarus-based media outfit, tweeted that Poland may give Ukraine “MiG-29 fighters and Su-25 attack aircraft and receive F-16 fighters in exchange from the U.S.,” citing a report form the Wall Street Journal, the Twitter account for Morawiecki’s chancellery responded, “‼️FAKE NEWS‼️”

“Poland won’t send its fighter jets to #Ukraine as well as allow to use its airports. We significantly help in many other areas,” the chancellery’s tweet read.

A subsequent report from the Wall Street Journal claimed two unnamed Polish officials said Poland will consider the alleged proposal touted by Blinken on national television.

Some of Poland’s air force still uses the Soviet-era MiG-29, much like other former Soviet-bloc NATO members Bulgaria and Slovakia. Before the invasion began, MiG-29s made up a plurality of the Ukrainian Air Force’s combat aircraft. The rest is divided between Soviet-developed Sukhoi Su-class fighter jets. Jane’s World Air Forces claims that Poland currently has 21 single-seat and six two-seater MiG-29s. These fighters could reportedly be given to the Ukrainians in exchange for U.S.-developed F-16 Fighting Falcons that currently make up a majority of Poland’s combat aircraft.

“It is a win-win game,” an unnamed Ukrainian official told the Wall Street Journal. “We will have new jets and Poland will have new jets.”

An unnamed Polish official, however, said it’s too early to determine if the Poles will provide this kind of support for the Ukrainians. “We need to act as one, as Western countries, as NATO, an alliance,” the official told the Wall Street Journal.

Thus far, Poland’s readiness to interject in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the willingness of other countries on NATO’s eastern front to do the same, has been a point of concern for those hoping the current conflict doesn’t spiral into something more cataclysmic through NATO involvement. If Poland rejects the Biden administration’s jet-exchange proposal, it may show that cooler heads are beginning to prevail in these eastern NATO countries. But if Poland were to change its stated course and give some of its MiG-29s to Ukraine in exchange for F-16s, it would certainly constitute an escalation. While NATO claims over 15 countries are in the process of sending the Ukrainians military equipment, funds, and humanitarian aid, these benefactors have avoided sending large-scale arms or equipment like combat aircraft.

After Blinken gave the green light to NATO countries considering fighter jet transfers, Russia’s Ministry of Defense warned that countries providing support for the Ukrainian Air Force, whether through supplying fighter jets or providing access to airfields, “could be considered as those countries’ engagement in the military conflict.”

Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed Russia has evidence that “Ukrainian combat aircraft have flown to Romania and other neighboring countries,” and that “the use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with the subsequent use of force against Russia’s army can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict.”

In the end, though, escalation via jet transfers is unlikely to provide the Ukrainians much of a long term advantage, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft Senior Research Fellow Anatol Lieven told The American Conservative via email. “Given Russia’s colossal air superiority and the damage already done to the Ukrainian air force, flying them in this war would be close to a suicide mission.”

Rather than facilitating a diplomatic solution even somewhat amenable to Russia’s reasonable, albeit demanding, terms, which could save thousands of lives, preserve the existence of the Ukrainian state, and prevent the conflict from spiraling into an all out war between nuclear powers, the Biden administration appears on the warpath.

In his monologue Monday night, Tucker Carlson argued that the Biden administration’s openness to providing Ukraine with warplanes meant the U.S. has already “inserted itself with force into the middle of a hot war between two foreign powers.”

“That means the United States is now an active participant in a war. We are at war with Russia. Whether or not that war has been officially declared, whether or not Congress has authorized that war, all of that is irrelevant. That war is happening right now as we watch.”

If the Biden administration doesn’t tread carefully, this war could go from hot to radioactive.



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