The first four of the 13 Soviet-designed fighter jets Slovakia pledged to send to Ukraine have been delivered, and the remaining will arrive in the coming weeks, the Slovak defense ministry said on Thursday.
Poland, which has led efforts to break NATO’s resistance to sending warplanes to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, became the first country to pledge MIG-29 fighters last week. Slovakia’s pledge followed just one day later.
The arrival of the MIG-29s is not expected to significantly change battlefield dynamics. Many of the aging Slovak jets are in need of repairs, the country’s defense minister, Jaroslav Nad, said in a statement. They will likely be used to provide spare parts for Ukraine’s own Soviet-era jets.
Poland’s campaign for warplanes has resembled its pressure campaign earlier this year to get allies to send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine. Those efforts succeeded in persuading several countries, including Britain, Germany, the United States and Finland, which announced on Thursday that it would send Ukraine a second package of Leopard 2 tanks.
In an interview with The Guardian published on Wednesday, the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, did not rule out the possibility of member nations sending Western jets to Ukraine, saying no decisions on the American-made F-16 fighter planes Ukraine has been pleading for had been made.
However, the United States and the U.K. have so far demurred on the question of sending their own warplanes to Ukraine, and a White House spokesman insisted last week that sending the American-made planes was “not on the table right now.”
Instead, the United States has offered help to Slovakia and the U.K. has offered assistance to Poland after their pledges to send MIGs.
The United States offered Slovakia new AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles as compensation for sending its MIGs, the Slovak defense ministry said on Wednesday.
The U.S. offer could also be understood as compensation for its delay in delivering the 14 F-16s that Slovakia ordered in 2019, Mr. Nad, the defense minister, said.
On Monday, the British armed forces minister, James Heappey, told the German news organization Welt that the U.K. was prepared to help Poland fill gaps in its air defense left by its pledge to send MIGs to Ukraine.