Nato is trying to walk a tightrope in Ukraine. It wants the Russian invasion to be defeated, as the US joint chiefs of staff declaration that ‘We will make a second Afghanistan for Russia’ in Ukraine makes clear. But it also doesn’t want to do things that would enable Moscow to escalate the conflict on the basis that Nato has entered the war.
This dilemma is behind the problem with the Polish MIGs. Fighter jets are both offensive and defensive weapons and if they are flown into Ukraine from Nato airspace, things get very tricky. This is why Washington has rejected the Polish scheme to hand them over to the US and then have the Americans get them into Ukraine. (Indeed, it would have been far better for this whole thing not to have been done so publicly. If the negotiations had all been done in secret, it might have been possible to slip the planes into Ukraine in a deniable way, as has happened in the past.
But denying Russia air superiority is also crucial. At the moment, the air space over Ukraine is still contested – which is one of the things slowing Putin’s military down. The UK decision to offer Ukraine Star Streak missiles, just announced by Ben Wallace in the Commons, is an attempt to prevent Russia gaining air superiority even if the delivery of MIGs continues to be impossible.
We are no two weeks into this war and it is clear that the Russians have been denied the quick victory that the Kremlin appears to have anticipated. But continuing Ukrainian resistance will require finding ways to carry on getting supplies into the country, even as the Russians advance.
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