Washington — A growing chorus of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling on the Biden administration to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and weapons to bolster its defense against Russia’s continued attacks.
The bipartisan, 58-member Problem Solvers Caucus on Sunday became the latest group of lawmakers to push for Ukraine to receive more military assistance from the U.S., including help securing Stinger missiles, air-defense systems and fighter jets.
“Despite heroic and skillful resistance by Ukrainian forces, Russia currently retains air superiority over Ukraine,” the group said in a statement. “Russia’s advantage in this domain could soon develop into air dominance if the Ukrainians do not receive necessary military aid.”
The caucus urged the Biden administration to work with NATO allies to arrange and speed up the transfer of any available S-300 surface-to-air-missile systems to Ukraine.
“Providing Soviet-era platforms that Ukrainian service members have previously operated and maintained will be essential to their success on the battlefield and will also protect U.S. defense technology from falling into the hands of the Russians,” the Problem Solvers Caucus said.
Also on Sunday, Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said separately that war planes are key tools for Ukraine as the country seeks to combat Russia’s air power.
Portman and Klobuchar are part of a four-member delegation that traveled to Poland over the weekend to meet with officials and visit refugee sites.
“What we have heard directly from the Ukrainians is they want them badly,” Portman, of Ohio, said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to Soviet-style MiG-29 fighter jets. “They want the ability to have better control over the skies in order to give them a fighting chance. So I don’t understand why we’re not doing it.”
The Ohio Republican also said that while not “top of the line,” anti-aircraft systems like the S-300 are still “very effective.”
“At a minimum, let’s get those into Ukraine. And let’s stop talking about it. Let’s do it,” he told CNN from Poland. “But the airplanes are also essential.”
Klobuchar, also on CNN, said she spoke with President Biden roughly 10 days ago and made clear that she supports sending fighter jets to Ukraine.
“I still don’t rule out having planes at some point. But, again, you take one day at a time and make the best defense system decisions,” she said. “And that can’t always be discussed on the air, or you would be giving Vladimir Putin the road map to what NATO wants to do here to help protect Ukraine.”
Still, the Minnesota Democrat said planes, drones or Stingers and Javelin missiles would help Ukraine protect itself against Russia’s continued attacks.
“One of the things we have to remember is, this is all about air defense,” she said.
The U.S. had been working on a deal with Poland to send their Russian-made aircraft to Ukraine, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken told “Face the Nation” last week that the Polish government had “a green-light” for sending planes to Ukraine.
But after Poland offered last week to deploy its MiG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. military installation in Germany, and “place them at the disposal” of the U.S., the Pentagon rejected the proposal, saying it is not a “tenable one.”
Still, top officials in Ukraine have continued to urge the U.S. and allies to give the country fighter jets. On Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said warplanes are the “highest demand” and the “most pressing issue.”
“If we lose control over the sky, we cannot prevent two things from happening: We cannot stop Russian bombers destroy[ing] our cities and killing civilians. And we cannot destroy Russian columns heading towards our big cities on the roads,” Kuleba said in an interview with “Face the Nation,” when asked what types of military equipment Ukraine needs from allies and partners. “To achieve these two purposes, we need more planes.”
Kuleba called the back-and-forth last week over plans to give Ukraine jets a “diplomatic mystery” that was reminiscent of a game of ping-pong.