Several Democratic members of Congress are urging the White House to provide Kiev with significantly more military support, with one rep, even calling to deploy “non-combatant observers” to the Ukrainian battlefield.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) called for long-term investment in modernizing Ukraine’s military, arguing the upgraded weapons will turn the country into a “porcupine that can’t be swallowed.”
Crow also proposed sending non-combatant observers to Ukraine to learn “through direct observation and communication with Ukrainian forces.” He did not specify whether the personnel would come from the CIA, Pentagon or another agency.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), are backing a plan that would send ATACM missiles to Ukraine. The rockets have a range of nearly 200 miles.
The White House has rejected several requests from Kiev to send long-range munitions, with the Pentagon going as far as to modify American-supplied HIMARS launchers to prevent the system from being able to fire ATACM missiles. The Biden administration has signaled that it may be willing to budge on the issue, however, as it supported London’s recent decision to provide Ukraine with long-range air-launched missiles.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also called on the White House to authorize cluster bombs for Kiev. That proposal has received bipartisan backing, with House Republicans penning letters to Biden demanding that he fulfills Kiev’s request for the controversial weapons.
Both Russia and Ukraine are reported to have used cluster bombs in Ukraine. Typically intended for use against personnel and light vehicles, cluster bombs carry smaller explosive submunitions which are released in flight and scattered across a target area. However, the bomblets often fail to detonate and remain on the ground as ‘duds,’ causing countless civilian deaths in former warzones, sometimes even decades into the future.
On Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) was asked whether he feared that F-16 fighter jets transferred to Ukraine could be used to attack Russia. The aging congressman replied, “No, I’m not concerned. I wouldn’t care if they did.” Those comments came just days after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress that American officials “have asked the Ukrainians not to use US-supplied equipment for direct attacks into Russia.”
Nadler insisted Kiev would not use F-16s in Russia, arguing it needs such weapons “for air defense over Ukraine so that they can provide air cover for their counterattack and things like that.” He added that “They’re not gonna waste it in Russia.”
Earlier this month, Kiev carried out an apparent assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin by targeting the Kremlin with drones, while a neo-Nazi militant group affiliated with Ukrainian forces used American weapons to launch a raid inside Russia last week, targeting civilian homes and infrastructure.
Rep. Crow dismissed calls for additional oversight for the vast sums of US aid flowing to Ukraine. Since Russia launched its invasion, the NATO bloc has pledged a total of $120 billion in assistance, the bulk of it weapons and military gear financed by US taxpayers. “When you’re fighting for your own survival and survival of your children,” Crow said, “you tend not to tolerate malfeasance.”
John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, warned earlier this year that such oversight was crucial. However, Sopko – who reported on billions of dollars of US weapons that fell into the hands of the Taliban – lamented his advice was unlikely to be followed. “I’m not super optimistic that we are going to learn our lessons… learning lessons is not in our DNA in the United States, unfortunately,” the watchdog said.
“There is an understandable desire amid a crisis to focus on getting money out the door and to worry about oversight later, but too often that creates more problems than it solves,” Sopko wrote in a report submitted to Congress earlier this year. “Given the ongoing conflict and the unprecedented volume of weapons being transferred to Ukraine, the risk that some equipment ends up on the black market or in the wrong hands is likely unavoidable.”