The Biden administration should expedite the supply of aircraft and air defense systems to Ukraine, said Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
While commending the lethal aid provided by Washington to Ukraine, Ernst expressed “strong” disagreement with the administration’s decision to “delay and deny” neighboring Poland the option to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine.
Supporting Kyiv’s war against the Russian invasion is among the “most urgent” missions that the West has faced in a generation, Ernst noted in a March 10 letter (pdf) to the president that was signed by 41 other lawmakers.
“We urge your administration to work with Poland and our NATO allies to expedite the transfer of urgently-needed airpower, air defense systems, and other combat and support capabilities from the United States, NATO allies, and other European partners to Ukraine,” said the letter.
“Today, Russia’s assault is trained on the Ukrainian people, public infrastructure, farms, hospitals, daycares, places of work, and even their homes,” Ernst said. “The Ukrainian military is in dire need of more lethal aid today to defend the foundations of their country that will allow it to function in the future.”
Washington “cannot allow” Russia to gain an advantage just because the United States failed to support Ukraine with necessary weapons and medical supplies, the letter said. The letter called on the administration to deliver the “needed airpower” to Ukraine “without delay” and help save the lives of countless civilians.
NATO member Poland had announced on March 8 that it was willing to send its MIG-29 jets to Germany’s Ramstein airbase, which could then be deployed to Ukraine. Poland asked other member states of the NATO alliance to follow suit.
However, the United States quickly put down the proposal, with the State Department Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, stating that Poland had not consulted Washington about the offer.
The prospect of fighter jets departing from an American/NATO base into airspace that is “contested with Russia over Ukraine” raises serious concerns, said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” Kirby added.
Russia has already warned that any support provided by a nation to the Ukrainian air force will be seen as directly participating in the conflict. Joe Biden has denied that Washington has any plans to send American troops to fight for Ukraine. NATO has also affirmed that it does not want to enter into direct conflict with Russia.