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GOP Sen. Portman: ‘I don’t understand’ why US not transferring jets to Ukraine

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) speaks at a signing ceremony for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Greg Nash

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Sunday questioned why the U.S. rejected Poland’s proposal to transfer MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. air base in Germany, saying, “I don’t understand why we’re not doing it.”

Asked by co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” if he is worried that Poland giving planes to Ukraine could trigger World War III, Portman said, “I don’t know why that would be true.”

He said he does not understand why Russia would perceive sending fighter jets to Ukraine as a larger escalation compared to other ways the U.S. and NATO allies have supported Kyiv amid Russia’s invasion.

“The Russians have complained about everything. [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has said that the sanctions are an act of war. They certainly complained when we provided Stingers directly from the U.S. government, which can knock down an airplane and have been successful in doing that at lower altitudes,” Portman said.

“We have given them helicopters. As recently as January, we provided them U.S. military helicopters. And those are directly from the United States. In this case, this would be Poland providing these airplanes, which are Soviet-style planes, old planes, MiG-29s. There are also two other countries, Slovakia and Bulgaria, that have these airplanes. What we have heard directly from the Ukrainians is they want them badly. They want the ability to have better control over the — over the skies in order to give them a fighting chance,” he added.

The Ohio Republican said, “I don’t understand why this is any worse than, from a Russian point of view, than other things … that we’ve already done or that we’re talking about.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Tuesday said Poland’s proposal to transfer MiG-28 fighter jets to a U.S. air base in Germany and then Ukraine to help the country in its fight against Russia was not “tenable.”

That announcement, however, came days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine had received “the green light” from the U.S. He also said the Biden administration would work to backfill Poland’s needs if it send jets to Ukraine.

Portman on Sunday pointed to Blinken’s initial approval of the plan in questioning why the U.S. did not follow through.

“So I don’t understand why we’re not doing it. We initially gave it a green light. As you know, last weekend, the secretary of State said it was going to get a green light. And for some reason, now we’re blocking it,” he said.

Tags Antony Blinken Dana Bash John Kirby Rob Portman Vladimir Putin

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