Senator Romney: Send aircraft to the Ukrainians now

WASHINGTON—At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) urged the Administration to deploy MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine without delay.

Senator Romney’s exchange with Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, can be found below the video.

Senator Romney: I fully concur with the introductory comments made by the Chairman and the Ranking Member and by Senator Portman and Senator Shaheen. I simply do not understand the logic for not getting the MiGs to the Ukrainians immediately. There is no logic which has been provided to this committee or to the nation for the lack of rapidity in making this decision. It makes no sense. If there are people in the Administration that know the answer, I would suggest we get the occasion to meet with them, perhaps in a classified setting, but we need to know the reason why those MiGs have not been transferred already. I believe there’s a sentiment that we’re fearful about what Putin might do. And what he might consider as an escalation. It’s time for him to be fearful of what we might do. The only way to get Putin to act in a way that may be able to save the lives of Ukrainians is if he fears us more than we fear him. And the truth of the matter is his military is exposed in Ukraine—bogged down, unfed, without fuel, they are in a very precarious position. He has to think about what happens if he provokes us. Because they could be obliterated by the forces of NATO. I would suggest that—we have had this discussion now day after day after day of people from the State Department like yourself saying, “We’re talking, we’re considering.” This is war. People are dying. We need to get this aircraft immediately to the people of Ukraine. That’s what they are asking for. By the way, the idea that somehow we’re calculating what’s effective for them to run their war and that our stingers and our javelins are better than our aircraft—it makes no sense at all. They are better at running their own war. They know the conditions on the ground. They are there, we’re not. And further, our A-10s would help. We need to get them A-10s. That’s the aircraft that’s really designed for this kind of warfare. Why are we dithering on that, as well? This makes no sense to me at all. I would request that as you return to the State Department, you indicate to them that we, this committee, deserve a response because as Senator Shaheen has said, our caucuses on both sides of the aisle are united on this. Get them the aircraft. Now I would also note that I would anticipate that there are going to be some adjustments in our military strategy with regards to Moldova, Georgia, and the Balkans. What changes do you see with regards to arms and support going to other nations that Putin has his eyes on? Because it’s now very clear I think to the entire world that this is a person who is trying to reestablish the old, if you will, boundaries of the Soviet Union and bring more and more nations under his control. And that’s unacceptable. What happens in Ukraine could spread to other places. What do we do militarily to prepare them for or to make them less vulnerable to his attack?

Assistant Secretary of State Lewis: Senator Romney, thank you for that question and for your leadership on this issue. We have been thinking through exactly this question that you’re raising, which is how to make sure the Eastern flank is shored up. One of the things I know is that in the CR that I think is moving quickly, there’s about another $200 million in Presidential Drawdown Authority, and I think when the final appropriations passes, another significant potentially billions.

Romney: These are small numbers—very small numbers for helping these nations defend themselves. 

Lewis: I think the good news is there are bigger numbers in the appropriations bill—the Omni. I know there’s over $3 billion in Presidential Drawdown Assistance and $500 million in foreign military funds. We can use those funds as well for the Eastern flank countries. We have already started working on exactly what their needs are to make sure they are shored up. I think lessons learned from this conflict will apply in terms of both training and the type of equipment they need.