Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Warsaw to thank Poland for receiving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion took an unexpected turn before she left Washington. You will be parachuted into the middle of an unexpected diplomatic turmoil over fighter jets.
The Polish government on Tuesday came up with a plan to move its Russian-made fighter jets to a US military base in Germany, with the planes expected to be then delivered to Ukrainian pilots trying to fend off Russian forces. In return, the United States will provide Poland with American-made jet aircraft “with corresponding capabilities”.
But the Poles did not get past this idea after the Biden administration before it was announced, and the Pentagon quickly dismissed the idea as “indefensible.”. ”
It was a rare moment of dissonance in what was a largely unified effort by NATO allies to help Ukraine without becoming embroiled in a wider war with Russia.
That means Harris was flying in tricky terrain Wednesday as she began a two-day visit to Poland and Romania and is trying to make things right.
said Daniel Fried, who served as the US ambassador to Poland to President Bill Clinton and was a senior advisor in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. “There are a lot of discussions about the way forward that need to be had with the Poles that you better have in a face-to-face conversation.”
Biden praised Poland and other Eastern European countries for stepping up in the midst of what has become a massive humanitarian crisis that is deepening. About two million people fled Ukraine and more than half of the refugees arrived in Poland.
Biden said Tuesday that he is committed to helping Ukraine’s neighbors take some of the financial pain of helping refugees. He has previously deployed an additional 4,700 US troops To Poland to strengthen the defense of the eastern flank of the NATO ally.
“I’ve made it clear that the United States will share the responsibility for taking care of the refugees so that the costs do not fall entirely on Ukraine’s European neighbors,” Biden said. He is looking to Congress to pass a $14 billion aid package to help Ukraine and its allies in Eastern Europe.
Hours after Biden spoke, Poland stunned the White House with her proposal.
Victoria Nuland, deputy secretary of state for political affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she saw the Polish government’s announcement as she was headed to Capitol Hill to testify.
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. She described it as “strange” that Poland announced its plan “without alerting us first”.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States was working with Poland on plans to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, and to “fill” Poland’s needs. However, the Polish government has made it clear that it will not send its combat aircraft directly to Ukraine or allow the use of its airports.
According to a US official familiar with the talks, Poland’s idea of transferring MiGs to the US was not raised during the talks with Blinken.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the exact matter, said White House officials did not believe the proposal would easily solve the logistical challenges of providing planes to Ukraine and questioned the rationale for moving the planes to a major NATO base in Germany. Just to take them back to Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or provide Ukraine with combat aircraft. NATO has scrapped the idea of a no-fly zone, saying that such a move would lead to the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II and would spread even further.
Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said late Tuesday that he hopes the administration can work out a better deal with Poland. “I hope they can go back to Poland, renegotiate that and give them assurances that we’re going to deliver” fighter jets, he said.
McCall also said that more deadly drones could be another option to help provide air power to the Ukrainians.
Despite the split over Poland’s proposal, the White House remained intent on sending Harris to Poland and Romania, as he looked to highlight efforts to build a united front with European neighbors and Western allies.
Harris traveled to the Munich Security Conference last month to rally European allies in the days before the invasion. She also met with Zelensky and other European officials.
“The Vice President’s trip to Poland and Europe is part of our effort to demonstrate our strong support for our allies and NATO partners, the security assistance they provide, and their role in accepting and welcoming refugees from Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.