Following the bizarre MiG fighter jets back-and-forth and dust-up between Poland and the US, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Warsaw attempting to clean up the PR mess and possibly damaged relations among allies – ironically an awkward VP is tasked with dealing with an awkward episode. The Pentagon on Tuesday and Wednesday in multiple statements formally rejected Poland’s premature and “surprise” offer to hand its MiGs over to the US to be transferred to Ukraine. “The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby had said earlier.
“I want to be very clear. The United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop,” Harris said at a press conference alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. Many reports have underscored that the whole MiGs for Ukraine affair had greatly “complicated” Harris’ visit, which was for the purpose of acting as an emissary to NATO’s ‘eastern flank’ – though we highly doubt the spectacle of her addressing the embarrassing inter-NATO confusion is striking fear into Putin.
CNN described of the Pentagon’s flat-out rejection of the Polish offer as follows: “But that was only after the awkward episode of Poland’s offer to deliver the jets to the US – who could then provide them to Ukraine – left White House officials surprised and, to some extend, annoyed.”
The commentary continued:
Harris was tasked with smoothing over the matter. Poland’s offer was designed to avoid the appearance of Poland directly arming Ukraine, and Duda said alongside Harris he wanted buy-in from other NATO members before taking the step.
However, the proposal created a conundrum for the US, which is also intent on avoiding direct conflict with Russia.
Harris said further in Warsaw: “I am here in Poland as an expression of the enduring and important relationship, that, again, has been longstanding, but in particular on the issue of Ukraine is unified and is clear: we will do everything together in partnership, in solidarity to support what is necessary at this very moment in terms of the humanitarian and security needs of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
She announced in the Thursday press event the delivery of two Patriot missile systems to Poland, after earlier in the week fears were raised of the potential for “stray” Russian missiles to enter Polish or NATO territory.
“We are pleased to have announced this week that we have directed two Patriot missile defense systems to Poland and today I can announce that we have delivered those Patriot missiles systems to Poland,” Harris said.
She also said the US is joining efforts at probing alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine…
“We have been witnessing for weeks and certainly just in the last 24 hours atrocities of unimaginable proportion.”
“We’re making deliveries every day in terms of what we can do,” Harris said. She also announced $53 million in new assistance to the Ukraine crisis, which will come in the form of humanitarian aid for those countries receiving large refugee flows from the conflict,” she added.
On the question of military assistance, she didn’t commit to anything further beyond what the US is already providing to Kiev: Javelin anti-tank and Stinger missiles. “We’re making deliveries every day in terms of what we can do,” Harris said. On the question of whether there will be more, she said: “That is an ongoing process and that is not going to stop to the extent there is a need.”