Two Republican House members have joined three Democrats in calling upon President Joe Biden to send F-16 fighters to Ukraine, a demand echoed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Republican Reps. Tony Gonzales of Texas and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin joined Democrats Jared Golden of Maine, Jason Crow of Colorado, and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania in sending a letter to Biden saying that F-16s “could prove decisive for control of Ukrainian airspace this year,” according to Politico.
Russia invaded Ukraine last year on Feb. 24. As the one-year anniversary of that invasion nears, Ukraine’s allies are being urged to gird for a long war that could continue beyond this year, according to Politico.
Biden is in Europe this week for talks with allies as Ukraine hopes that the coalition of nations that has supported it with arms and money will continue to hold together in the face of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s expected effort to continue the war in hopes that the alliance will crack.
The House members said giving Ukraine F-16s “is necessary to help Ukraine protect its airspace, particularly in light of renewed Russian offensives and considering the expected increase in large-scale combat operations.”
“F-16s or similar fourth generation fighter aircraft would provide Ukraine with a highly mobile platform from which to target Russian air-to-air missiles and drones, to protect Ukrainian ground forces as they engage Russian troops, as well as to engage Russian fighters for contested air superiority,” they argued.
Send F-16s to Ukraine has been a Congressional talking point since early in the war, but the Biden administration has never embraced the concept.
Republican Rhino Tony Gonzalez of Texas is Blocking Border Security!
He’s also signed a letter asking Biden to give F-16s to Ukraine!
Mike Gallagher has done the Same! https://t.co/MSS0rANbcz
— Kat1776 (@Kat17763) February 19, 2023
During an interview with ABC, Graham said he wants that to change immediately and hopes to get his way.
“I believe a decision will be imminent here when we get back to Washington that the administration will start training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16,” he said.
Graham said calling out Russian atrocities means nothing without defeating Russia.
“Let me just stress this: How can you call this war by Russia a crime against humanity … and not give the victim of their crime against humanity the defensive weapons they need to stop the crime? So, we need to do two things quickly: make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law, which would make it harder for China to give weapons to Russia, and we need to start training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 now,” Graham continued.
Graham said fears that escalation will anger Putin are irrelevant.
“I’m not worried about provoking Putin. I want to beat him. And how do you beat him? You beat him by giving the Ukrainians the military capability to drive the Russians out of Ukraine,” he said.
A bipartisan group led by @RepGolden is urging Biden to provide Ukraine with F-16s.
Despite the request from lawmakers, there’s a small but vocal portion of the Republican Party that wants to end aid to Ukraine.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 17, 2023
“Ultimately I think this is a sound investment in U.S. national security, because not only are we defending a country from authoritarian aggression, not only are we taking one of our biggest geopolitical competitors down several notches in the process, and we’re doing it without U.S. boots on the ground in harm’s way, but we’re also simultaneously dealing a blow to the Chinese Communist Party,” Gallagher said.
“If deterrents were to collapse even further in Ukraine, or if we were to allow Russia to totally take over Ukraine, I think it would give Xi Jinping a massive green light to make a move on Taiwan, and then we would find ourselves in a really, really serious and dangerous situation the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II,” Gallagher said.
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