Democrats and Republicans in Congress are deeply concerned about the spiraling war between Russia and Ukraine, fearing it could potentially draw the United States into direct conflict with Russian troops.
Lawmakers from both parties say they support President BidenJoe BidenGas prices hit a new high of 0.43 a gallon, up 79 cents in two weeks Five key developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Biden’s CIA chief leads the charge against war Putin’s information MOREmade the decision to put US troops on the ground in Ukraine or impose a no-fly zone over the country, fearing that such moves could trigger a much larger war.
“This is the most dangerous time since the Cuban Missile Crisis,” the senator warned. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFive Things to Know About the .5T Spending Bill Congress Just Passed Democratic Effort to Cancel Border Wall Fund Fails Democrats and Republicans struggle to compromise on border fund and immigration MORE (D-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
“We have never been closer to a direct conflict with Russia,” added Murphy, who along with other senators wants to quash calls for US fighter jets to impose a no-fly zone over over Ukraine in order to stop the shelling of Ukrainian defense forces and civilians.
He noted that the United States never directly and openly supported insurgents who fought Soviet troops in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan in the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. Murphy also pointed out that American support for the Mujahideen soldiers who successfully repelled a Soviet invasion in Afghanistan was done covertly through the CIA.
“We made the right decision to openly support the Ukrainians, but we just have to understand the unprecedented moment we live in today where we are openly funding the war against a nuclear power,” he said.
Murphy made his comments shortly before Congress passed $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. About half of this amount will go to the Pentagon to replace equipment that has already been sent to Ukrainian forces.
The aid package passed the Senate 68 to 31 and the House 361 to 69, but lawmakers who voted in favor admitted they were nonetheless nervous about the Russian president. Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich PutinGas prices hit a new high of 0.43 a gallon, up 79 cents in two weeks Russian prosecutors warn Western companies over arrests and asset seizures Five key developments in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia MOREthe potential reaction.
Both Democratic and Republican senators believe Putin has become increasingly erratic and unpredictable and fear he is now surrounded by advisers who are unwilling to oppose reckless decisions.
Sen. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats divided over proposal to suspend federal gas tax Senate passes bill to make former internment camp a national historic site Democrats rush to crush sanctions bill Cruz PLUS Nord Stream 2 (D-Colo.) said among those who feared the conflict could escalate into a fight between U.S. and Russian forces.
“Of course, of course, is there anyone in this building who doesn’t care?” Because if there is, there will be a recall effort,” he said.
“It’s a delicate, delicate dance. You have to be really thoughtful because the man we’re dealing with doesn’t seem to be the same person we were dealing with five years ago,” he said, referring to Putin. “And I’m not sure I’ve heard from anyone who is confident that they can predict what their response will be to any action we might take.
“We have to be very, very careful,” he added.
Fighting came closer to NATO forces stationed in Poland over the weekend when Russian missiles struck a military installation in western Ukraine about 24 km from the Polish-Ukrainian border, killing 35 people and injuring more than 130.
Republican leaders have been sharply critical of President Biden’s handling of numerous issues, foreign and domestic, including his reluctance to tighten sanctions on Russia ahead of the invasion. But they strongly support his decision to keep American troops out of direct conflict.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUkrainian crisis impacts US domestic politics Trump to hold rally for Perdue, Walker in Georgia (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday that he did not see the role of U.S. fighter jets in Ukrainian airspace.
“There are a number of ways to potentially impact the skies. Stingers, drones and planes – and we just discussed the possibility of getting these Russian-era MiGs out of Poland and Ukraine,” said he said, referring to a proposal to send US planes to Poland to replace Soviet-era fighters sent to Ukraine.
“But I don’t think any NATO country, certainly not ours, is ready to engage directly with the Russians over Ukraine,” he warned.
Some prominent defense policy thinkers have argued for NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, including Sen. Roger OsierRoger Frederick WickerBipartisan group of senators to meet with officials and visit refugee sites in Poland Live coverage: Mosque hit in Mariupol, Russian attacks continue in Kyiv Capito looks at GOP Senate leadership bid MORE (Miss.), who is set to become the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and former member of the armed forces panel.
“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s refusal to grant Ukraine air protection against continued, indiscriminate and inhumane Russian air attacks is strategically weak and morally wrong,” Lieberman wrote in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamIsrael faces high stakes as Russian middleman shows preview on Sunday: Russian invasion of Ukraine extends into third week Manchin has ‘positive’ meeting with Biden’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (RS.C.) told Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” he would support declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine if Russian forces used chemical weapons.
Other senators, however, say fear of an escalation of conflict is a key reason the Biden administration backed out of a plan to replace MiG-29 fighter jets sent by Poland in Ukraine by American planes.
The senators, however, say fear of an escalation of the conflict is a key reason the Biden administration backed out of a plan to replace MiG-29 fighter jets sent by Poland to Ukraine with American planes.
Pentagon Spokesperson John KirbyJohn KirbyUS and European cyber investments in Ukraine pay off amid war Thousands rally across Europe to protest Russian-Ukrainian war US and Ukrainian officials brace for possible Russian chemical attack told reporters on Wednesday that the transfer was deemed too “high risk”.
He said the intelligence community had indicated that this “could lead to a significant Russian reaction which could increase the prospects for military escalation with NATO.”
Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate Avoids Shutdown, Spends 0.6 Billion on Ukraine, and GOP Calls for Spending Vote Delay, Ukraine Helps Wyoming Legislature Remove Cross-voting Ban Despite Support from Trump MORE (R-Ky.) warned that the war in Ukraine could easily explode into a much larger war.
“Like most people here, fortunately, I don’t want American troops directly involved and I will do anything to oppose it,” he said.
“There is always a danger of escalation,” he said. “The bottom line is that we need to be very aware that rational, healthy voices think about what we’re doing before we do it.
“I would say the rhetoric on TV and among many members of Congress is overly emotional and not well reasoned and thoughtful. This is what you need if you don’t want to get into a world war,” he added.
Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCruz rides a shotgun around DC Beltway with a convoy of truckers Campaign report from The Hill: GOP hits out at Democrats over rising pump prices Johnson touts work with faith initiative of Milwaukee in new commercials MORE (R-Wis.), a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the situation was frightening because Putin was so unpredictable.
He said direct hostilities between US and Russian forces “is what everyone wants to avoid”.
“That’s the danger, that’s what everyone is worried about,” he added.
Johnson, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations, Europe and Regional Security Cooperation subcommittee, said European ambassadors were shocked and surprised by Putin’s brazen invasion.
“Talking to ambassadors from countries in this region, to an ambassador, none of them thought they would do this,” he said. “They were so convinced because it doesn’t make sense.
Johnson said Putin’s inner circle of advisers had been reduced to a coterie of “yes-yes” that “gave him a rosy storyline” about the success of the invasion.
“When Putin starts talking about nuclear weapons and putting his nuclear forces on higher alert, it scares people, you-know-what,” he said.
The American Federation of Scientists estimates that Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.