A growing number of lawmakers are pushing the Biden administration to fulfil Kyiv’s request for air power.
Some of President Biden’s closest Democrat allies have joined Republicans in pushing the White House to facilitate transfer of fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine. Others are hesitant to make a move that Russia may take personally.
“It’s a very difficult balance. We want to help Ukraine in every way we can without going to war with Russia and starting World War III and risking a nuclear conflict,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
At the center of the struggle are 28 Polish fighter jets, MiG-29s, which are highly desired by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Warsaw caught the White House off guard last week when it offered to transfer the planes to a US air base in Germany so they could be deployed to Ukraine. The Biden administration balked at the idea of jets flying out of a US base into a war zone against Russia.
A growing number of Democrat lawmakers disagree.
“If they believe that MiGs are going to assist them in their efforts to prevent Russia from dominating the skies, … I think we should find a way to make it happen,” said Anthony Brown (D-MD), a member of the Armed Services panel.
“If the country that’s defending itself is asking, and they think it could actually be useful, then I think we should transfer” the planes,” agreed Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who is also on the Committee.
Still, at issue is not only whether or not to transfer the planes, but how to get them to Ukraine. A truck convoy would prove too easy a target for Russian forces as soon as it crossed the border.
“You can’t put one of these things in a truck. You might be able to put it into some sort of SuperWide, but you might as well call Putin and tell him exactly where to bomb it,” said Brad Sherman (D-CA) of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“If you launch them from a NATO country, Russia will rightfully interpret that as a NATO attack,” said Brown. His back and forth highlights the complexity of the issue. Lawmakers feel desperate to do something, but ultimately don’t want to risk getting Americans personally involved.