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U.S. Closes Door on Combat Aircraft for Ukraine, Citing ‘High Risk’

The United States has sought to speed weapons deliveries to Ukraine. But it shuddered on Tuesday at the prospect of flying combat aircraft from NATO territory into the war zone.
Polish Air Force MiG-29 pilot Adrian Rojek performs during the Radom Air Show at an airport in Radom, Poland August 23, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File photo
Polish Air Force MiG-29 pilot Adrian Rojek performs during the Radom Air Show at an airport in Radom, Poland August 23, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File photo

The United States on Wednesday closed the door on supplying combat aircraft to Ukraine, saying the intelligence community assessed it would be a “high risk” move that could increase the chances of a Russian escalation with NATO.

NATO ally Poland surprised Washington on Tuesday with a public offer to transfer its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany as a way to replenish Ukraine’s air force. Kyiv has implored the West for combat aircraft.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained the U.S. decision, saying that the transfer of MiG-29s would change little for Ukraine relative to Russian capabilities, and stressed U.S. support for supplying other types of weapons.

“The intelligence community has assessed that the transfer of MiG-29s to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO,” Kirby said.

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