WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today held a press conference on his Senate resolution urging the Biden Administration to facilitate the transfer of aircraft, such as MiG-29s, and air defense systems to Ukraine.
The draft resolution can be found here.
- GRAHAM: “I think what President Zelensky is saying is if you can't do the NATO no-fly zone – and at this point in time, that to me is a bridge too far because it would put us in direct conflict – he said how about helping us control our own skies? As to my friends in the Pentagon: you told all of us that this war would last three or four days, that Kyiv would fall, that the country would be overwhelmed by the Russian military. They were wrong. So, quite frankly, I trust President Zelensky’s judgment about what would help [Ukraine] in real-time more than anybody else on the planet right now. He's proven a level of capability as a wartime leader. The Ukrainian people and their military have exceeded all expectations. So when he asks for MiG jets that his pilots can fly, that they're trained on, that Poland – at least at one time – was willing to give, I think we should honor that request.”
- GRAHAM: “I do believe it is in our national security interest to meet the requests of the Ukrainian president to allow him, the Ukrainian people, to establish a no-fly zone. So while I oppose a NATO no-fly zone, I support enthusiastically the sending of MiG aircraft from Poland to the Ukrainian Air Force so they can be more competitive in the skies and missile systems that are in abundance that can neutralize the Russian air advantage.”
- GRAHAM: “I'm urging the Senate to speak with one voice, to meet the moment. We've been talking. We have written letters. But it's now time to take votes. I would just say this: if we had a vote on the resolution to supply the Ukrainian military with the MiG fighters and other air defense systems, it would be a shot in the arm to the Ukrainian people and their military. It would be a blow to Putin. If we could do this soon, I think it really could help the outcome of this conflict.”
- GRAHAM: “On the state of play of the war, I think the Ukrainian military has exceeded every expectation. I think the Russian military, it has been underwhelming. Thousands of people have died in this conflict. I do not believe the Russian military’s heart and soul is in this endeavor. How does this end? We cannot let Putin get away with this. After 20 years of murder and war crimes and thievery, it’s led to this moment. Every time he did something outrageous, the world complained, but not enough. Now he's crossed the Rubicon where there's no going back. If he's still standing when this is over, then you can almost bet that Taiwan goes and that Iran will become more belligerent. So what happens here in Ukraine will shape the world one way or the other.”
- GRAHAM: “I do not support a NATO no-fly zone. I understand the need from the Ukrainian perspective to stop the bombardment. It appears to me that Ukraine is holding its own on the ground. The big difference is airpower – planes and missile attacks that have really been punishing to the Ukrainian people. But when President [Biden] and his team indicate that that would be an escalation that would involve the potential conflict between NATO members and Russia, he's right. That calculation may change, in my mind, about a no-fly zone, but as of right now, I support the President's decision not to go down that road."