GOP senators urge Biden to expedite transfer of airpower, air defense systems to Ukraine

More than 40 Republican senators called on President Biden to speed up the transfer of air power and air defense systems, among other support, to Ukraine after the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that the U.S. did not support transferring Polish fighter jets to Ukraine. 

“While we commend the lethal aid that your Administration has sent to Ukraine thus far, we strongly disagree with your decision to delay and deny Poland the option to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine,” the senators wrote.

“Your Administration champions the $1 billion in defense articles provided to Ukraine over the past 13 months and has definitively stated there are no restrictions in your current suite of authorities to adequately respond to Russia’s lawless and bloody invasion of Ukraine,” they continued.

“We implore you to direct your Department of Defense to facilitate the transfer of aircraft, air defense systems, and other capabilities by and through our NATO partners immediately,” they said.

The letter to Biden was led by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and included most of their Republican Senate colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the upper chamber’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

The development comes after Poland earlier this week offered to send all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to an American air base in Germany so the U.S. could facilitate their transfer to Ukraine. But the Pentagon explained on Wednesday that the U.S. government did not support their transfer at the moment, worrying the move could be perceived as escalatory.

“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,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.  

“Therefore, we also assess the transfer of the MiG-29s to Ukraine to be high-risk,” he said. 

Kirby also told reporters that the U.S. was continuing to send Ukraine weapons.

“We believe the best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression. In particular, anti-armor, and air defense. We along with other nations continue to send them these weapons and we know that they’re being used with great effect,” he said.

In addition to Kirby’s comments, the White House referred The Hill to a statement European Command Commander Gen. Tod Wolters issued on Thursday.

“We believe the most effective way to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia is to provide increased amounts of anti-tank weapons and air defense systems, which is on-going with the international community. The Ukrainians are making excellent use of these weapons now,” Wolters said. 

Ukraine has urged for the establishment of a no-fly zone — which has been met with resistance from the U.S. and international allies — and the transfer of MiG-29s, which Ukrainian pilots have already been trained to use.

— Updated at 11:48 p.m.

Tags Joe Biden John Kirby John Thune Joni Ernst Joni Ernst MiG Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Mitt Romney NATO Poland Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine

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