A day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Congress members to provide help in battling Vladimir Putin’s invading Russian armies, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the Biden administration to work with Eastern European allies to grant Zelensky’s wish.
Specifically, Schumer hopes NATO nations like Poland and Romania could provide Ukraine with Soviet-era MIG fighter planes because members of the Ukrainian Air Force are trained to fly them. The U.S. would then “backfill” the request by providing Poland and Romania with defensive aircraft.
During a virtual meeting with members of the House and Senate on March 5, Zelensky implored the U.S. to provide Ukraine with a no-fly zone – something that’s been ruled out because of fears of a direct confrontation with Russia that could trigger a nuclear conflict.
But lawmakers also heard Zelensky’s request for more fighters and missiles, and that’s something that can be fulfilled, according to Schumer. The MIG planes might be aged, but “they could be just what President Zelinsky needs,” Schumer said Sunday.
“We’re asking Washington and our administration to do everything it can to facilitate the transfer of the planes from Eastern Europe to Ukraine to greatly enhance their ability to defend themselves,” the New York senator said during a March 6 press conference at his Manhattan office.
“The Ukrainian Air Force knows how to fly them. They couldn’t do that with other aircraft,” Schumer added. “The U.S. can commit to helping backfill the other countries’ air forces. There are ongoing discussions for that to happen.”
Schumer added that bipartisan discussions are continuing on an omnibus spending bill that would include $10 billion in new aid to Ukraine. The spending bill must be passed by March 11 to avoid a government shutdown.
The proposed Ukrainian aid package, as requested by the Biden administration, would send new missiles to Ukraine while also providing food, clothing and medical supplies.
Meanwhile, Schumer indicated that the U.S. is considering additional sanctions against Russia and Putin, including a possible oil embargo being discussed among allies this week. He observed that the bevy of unprecedented sanctions on Russia would put the hurt on Putin, with the hope that he’ll end the invasion.
“We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The sanctions they [the U.S. and allies] have imposed on Russia are much stronger than Putin,” Schumer said. “Within several months, Putin’s going to be in severe trouble.”