Cassidy says transfer of Polish jets to Ukraine ‘within the rules of the game’

Supplying Ukraine with Polish MiG fighter jets is “within the rules of the game,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) as policymakers debate how far the U.S. should go in supporting the fight against Russia.  

Cassidy’s comments at The Hill’s Future of Education event came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a dramatic address before the U.S. Congress, in which he called for increased American military aid.  

The Biden administration initially signaled openness to a plan to send Polish fighter jets to Ukraine, after which the U.S. would send more modern jets to replenish Poland’s military. However, when details of the plan became public, the Pentagon rejected the proposal, saying it risked provoking Russia and escalating the war. 

Cassidy suggested there was a way to get the fighter jets into Ukraine without overt U.S. involvement.  

“Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if a group of Ukrainian tourists happened to step into a MiG in Poland and fly them to Ukraine and never come back,” Cassidy said.  

Raising the question of whether the move could be escalatory, Cassidy noted that Russians supplied North Vietnamese troops with MiGs during the Vietnam War. 

“So if those Ukrainian tourists happened to fly them to Ukraine and keep them there, I think that’s within the rules of the game,” he added. 

Zelensky on Wednesday stressed the need for bolstered air defenses as “Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death.” He again called for a no-fly zone backed by the West, which the White House opposes, warning it could lead to direct conflict between nuclear powers. 

Cassidy said the U.S. needed to strike a balance. “On the one end we have to support President Zelensky as much as possible, and on the other we have to avoid a potential World War III.” 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they understand Biden’s caution; however, Biden has come under increasing pressure on the Poland jets deal.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Tuesday that President Biden “folded like a cheap suit” when he rejected the plan.  

Earlier this week, Cassidy co-sponsored a resolution introduced by Graham calling for the Biden administration to provide Ukraine with air defense systems and aircraft, including MiG-29s. 

After Zelensky’s speech, the Biden administration announced it would send an additional $800 million in military support to Ukraine, on top of the $200 million it committed over the weekend. 

The new aid will include funds for 800 anti-aircraft systems to protect against Russian planes and 100 tactical drones. Cassidy said he has “no doubt” the U.S. is also passing along key intelligence to Ukraine. 

At Thursday’s Hill event, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) said the Ukrainian crisis is “something that the global community has a moral responsibility to respond to.” 

The pandemic and other global issues like the conflict in Ukraine are reminders of the importance of the crucial role of the U.S. in international diplomacy, Hayes said. 

“We cannot have this America-alone agenda where we ignore the challenges of other countries. Because this is what we end up with at our doorstep.”

She warned against America’s trajectory down a “dangerous path” of isolationism and “every man for himself” individualism. 

“The world is on notice that our humanity is all intertwined and we have a responsibility to step in when human rights are violated anywhere in the world,” Hayes said.

Tags Bill Cassidy Jahana Hayes Joe Biden Lindsey Graham US military support
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