Key Republican members of Congress are launching a two-front campaign to pressure the Biden administration to send Ukraine more advanced weapons, Defense One reported Saturday, citing people familiar with the plan.
One aspect of the campaign is to pressure Biden administration officials through closed-door briefings. The other is to apply public pressure, something Republican leadership has been doing throughout the war.
The main demand from the hawkish Republicans is for the US to provide MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, F-16 fighter jets, and Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which have a range of up to 190 miles. Providing Ukraine with either weapon would significantly escalate US military aid and bring the US and Russia closer to a direct clash.
The latest weapons package the Biden administration announced included Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB) for the first time. The GLSDB can hit targets up to 94 miles away, nearly twice the range of the munitions Ukraine has been using with the US-provided HIMARS rocket systems. But nearly doubling Ukraine’s strike range did not satisfy the hawkish Republicans.
“I have repeatedly called for more, better, and faster aid to Ukraine, but today’s announcement from the President is more of the same unnecessary slow-walking that has gotten us to this point,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said Friday after the new weapons package was announced.
“We should begin training on the F-16s and ATACMS they have asked for immediately and seek to transfer these weapons systems as soon as possible. Training for Abrams and the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb should have started months ago,” Wicker added.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has previously called for Biden to send Ukraine ATACMs so they could strike Crimea, which would risk a major escalation of the war. For their part, Ukrainian officials appear to be focusing their effort on securing F-16s or other advanced Western fighter jets.
While Republican leadership is pushing for more military aid to Ukraine, there are signs they are thinking about how the war will end. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the head of the House Armed Services Committee, who favors sending ATACMs, has said the US must give Ukraine everything it needs now so the conflict ends by this summer. But a lot could happen between now and the summer, and each escalation risk provoking Moscow.