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Tipsheet

Biden on Decision Not to Send Jets to Ukraine: 'That's Called World War III'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

President Joe Biden defended his administration's decision to nix a plan with Poland to facilitate fighter jets to Ukraine to fight off Russia's invasion, arguing Friday that moving forward with the plan may have prompted World War III.

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"The idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews — just understand, don't kid yourself, no matter what y'all say, that's called World War III," Biden told House Democrats during a visit to Philadelphia.

This comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinkin said Sunday that the U.S. had given Poland the "green light" to send fighter jets to Ukraine after Poland offered to send 28 MiG-29s.

Poland offered to deploy all of its MIG-29 jets to Germany's Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The U.S. would have then facilitated the transfer to Ukraine.

A group of 42 Republicans on Thursday sent a letter to Biden asking that he reconsider his rejection of Poland's offer.

"So far, Russian forces have been stymied by stiff Ukrainian resistance, and we must redouble our efforts to prevent a brutal and unlawful takeover of Ukraine," the senators wrote. "We urge your administration to work with Poland and our NATO allies to expedite the transfer of urgently-needed airpower, air defense systems and other combat and support capabilities from the United States, NATO allies, and other European partners to Ukraine."

Several Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the Biden administration for not taking Poland up on its offer to supply Ukraine with jets.

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"There is bipartisan support to provide these planes," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) told Pentagon and State Department officials Thursday. "It is disappointing to see the reluctance on the part of the administration. It’s coming across as indecision and bickering among members of the administration, which is not helpful to the cause and not helpful to the administration."

But Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that "adding aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force relative to Russian capabilities. Therefore, we believe that the gain from transferring those MiG-29s is low." 

Kirby also said the intelligence community has "assessed that the transfer of MiG-29s may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO."

"Therefore, we also assess the MiG-29s to Ukraine to be high-risk," he said.

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