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Russia-Ukraine: Bipartisan lawmakers urge Biden to work with Poland to provide MiG-29s to Ukraine

A growing number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to facilitate a deal with Poland to send MiG-29 planes to Ukraine for additional air support as Russia continues its multi-front war on the country.

The Pentagon last week rejected Poland’s proposal for the U.S. and NATO to deliver MiG-29 planes to the Ukrainian military, arguing that the move could be mistaken as “escalatory” and could result in “significant Russian reaction” that could increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO.

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On Monday, a group of 15 bipartisan House lawmakers penned a letter to President Biden, urging the administration to provide additional defense material to Ukraine and strengthen economic sanctions directed at Russia.

“Despite heroic and skillful resistance by Ukrainian forces, Russia currently retains air superiority over Ukraine,” they wrote. “Russia’s advantage in this domain could soon develop into air dominance if the Ukrainians do not receive necessary military aid.”

The lawmakers called for stinger missiles, saying they believe they will “continue to be critical in combating Russia’s superiority in the air.”

“The U.S. must also help to supply more comprehensive air defense systems to defend Ukraine and its people,” they wrote, adding that the U.S. should coordinate with NATO allies who possess S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to “facilitate and expedite the transfer of these systems into Ukraine.”

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“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,” they wrote.

As for Poland’s proposal, the lawmakers said they “commend the Polish government for taking proactive steps to deliver MiG-29 jets to the Ukrainian Air Force.”

“We urge you to help facilitate this deal, commit to replenishing our allies’ fleets with American-made aircraft, and help advance the transfer of Su-25 aircraft to Ukraine as well,” they wrote, noting that it is “a pragmatic solution to expeditiously provide the Ukrainians with aircraft which Ukrainian pilots have flown and their service members can maintain.”

“We also believe that the U.S. should seriously consider strategies to provide further drone capability to the Ukrainians, as they have already used Bayraktar TB2 drones with success on the battlefield,” they added. “Unmanned platforms–to include both intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capabilities–could prove critical to Ukrainian efforts to combat Russia’s advances.”

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The lawmakers also called for strengthening economic sanctions — specifically against “third parties that do business with Russian entities and individuals.”

“If necessary, secondary sanctions should be levied against Chinese banks and businesses that do business with Russia, in order to best ensure that Russia is unable to find a means of offsetting its exclusion from U.S. and European markets and banking systems,” they wrote.

The calls for sanctions on Chinese-linked banks and businesses come after U.S. intelligence officials said Russia asked China for military and economic aid after it invaded Ukraine.

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The Biden administration has said that it has “deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time.”

Meanwhile, the lawmakers also called on bolstering humanitarian aid to Ukraine as more than 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia’s initial invasion on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, 

The letter to Biden was signed by Republicans and Democrats, including Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine, Jason Crow, D-Colo., Don Bacon, R-Neb., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., James Baird, R-Ind., John Katko, R-N.Y., Bill Johnson, R-N.C., Conor Lamb, D-Pa., Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., Chris Pappas, D-N.H., Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., Michael Waltz, R-Fla., Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Kaiali’i Kahele, D-Hawaii.

Meanwhile, their letter to Biden comes after 58 members of the Problem Solvers Caucus — which includes both Republicans and Democrats — urged the U.S. to provide additional defense material — including MiGs — to Ukraine.

Poland surprised the U.S. last week by offering to give its entire fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. in exchange for a chance to buy American F-16s as part of a deal to bolster the Ukrainian air force while upgrading the Poles with NATO aircraft.

The Pentagon, the following day, pushed back on the move and said it raised concerns regarding the deployment of warplanes from a U.S. base in a NATO-allied nation to combat Russian forces.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, right, and US Vice President Kamala Harris hold  press conference at Belwelder Palace, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, March 10, 2022. 

The Pentagon, though, said that the “best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression, in particular anti-armor and air defense.”

US REJECTS POLISH PROPOSAL TO TRANSFER MIG-29 PLANES TO UKRAINE, CALLS MOVE ‘HIGH-RISK’

“The intelligence community has assessed that the transfer of MiG-29s may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. 

The calls from members of Congress to support the transfer of MiG-29s come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading with the United States and western allies to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on Sunday, March 13, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, shakes hands with a wounded soldier during his visit to a hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Biden and NATO have ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying that enforcing it would put the U.S. and NATO in direct confrontation with Russia and would expand the conflict.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so it is not subject to the Article V provision of the NATO alliance that says when one member country is attacked, all member countries will take action to assist.

On Monday, the parliament of Estonia called for U.N. member states to “take immediate steps to establish a no-fly zone” over Ukraine to prevent further civilian casualties as Russia’s multi-front war against the country rages on.

Estonia is the first NATO member nation to have a body formally call for the implementation of a no-fly zone amid Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy is set to deliver a virtual address to members of Congress on Wednesday. 

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