Those two controversial options divide lawmakers, with Republicans being more hawkish about giving planes to Ukraine, but some Democrats — and the White House — concerned that Russia might view such a move as an escalation and possibly push America into war.
While there is broad bipartisan support for assistance to Ukraine, many lawmakers also believe that the United States should be careful not to be drawn into any kind of direct armed conflict with Russia.
President Joe Biden plans to provide details of US assistance to Ukraine in his own speech later Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the hypothetical address in a letter to lawmakers earlier this week. Pelosi’s office told CNN that the speech would be broadcast live and broadcast live.
Bob Menendez, the Senate foreign relations chair, a Democrat from New Jersey, told reporters when asked what he expected from the virtual address.
“I think it is important for Ukraine to prevail in the national interest of the United States, and I don’t think a no-fly zone or direct confrontation is what is necessary to do that,” Menendez said.
There is pressure from some lawmakers in Congress to add provisions to supply Ukraine with fighter jets to legislation targeting Russia’s energy imports and trade situation, but it is not yet clear what will happen to the effort.
Senate Republican whip John Thune of South Dakota said Monday that there is broad bipartisan support for legislation targeting Russia’s energy imports and business status to punish the country for its invasion of Ukraine. But he said members might want to add other provisions, such as agreeing to deploy combat aircraft to Ukraine from NATO countries, such as Poland, a dynamic that could complicate passage of legislation quickly.
“I know the administration has its position on that, but there will be a lot of bipartisan support for the planes,” Thune told reporters at the Capitol.
Thun said Tuesday, referring to the MiG fighter jet. “It must be an all-out effort to give them everything they need to fight their own battles. There are things that I think they haven’t received yet that they can help with, lethal assistance that would help. They are at least trying and increasing the fighting and preventing the Russians from getting to a lot of their big cities.” .
“Tomorrow’s speech should continue to raise the issue in a way that I believe will put additional pressure on not only the administration, but both political parties in Congress to do everything possible to help the Ukrainians,” Thun added.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that despite Zelensky’s requests, the White House does not support imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supplying the Ukrainian Air Force with new combat aircraft.
“I would like to point out that [the Pentagon] Psaki said during a press conference on Tuesday that adding aircraft to the Ukrainian stockpile is unlikely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force, relative to Russian capabilities. And the assessment was that moving these planes might be wrong because escalation, as we said, could lead to a major Russian reaction, but that’s the risk assessment that was made. This risk assessment has not changed.”
Regarding the no-fly zone, Psaki said that Biden should “consider the decisions that are being made from the perspective of what is in our national security interests and global security interests, and still believes that the no-fly zone will be escalatory, that could lead to war with Russia.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Jeremy Herb, Donald Judd and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.
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