Congress, U.S. President

Capito, Manchin join 14 other senators to urge Biden administration to send drones to Ukraine

MORGANTOWN – Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito have joined with a bipartisan group of 14 other senators to urge Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to send MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine to aid in its defense against the Russian invasion.

The Pentagon has considered transferring armed Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to Ukraine for months without a final decision, they said, and providing the drones has the potential to drive the strategic course of Russian President Putin’s war in Ukraine’s favor.

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova have repeatedly requested the MQ-IC Gray Eagle, they said.

This UAS system’s operational attributes include availability, lethality, survivability and exportability and complement existing weapon systems used by the Ukrainians, the senators said. Most importantly, armed UAS could find and attack Russian warships in the Black Sea, breaking its blockade and alleviate dual pressures on the Ukrainian economy and global food prices.

They noted that the weapon system configurations for the MQ-lC have been reviewed and exported to more than 25 U.S. partners.

The letter says, “We write to express concern regarding press reporting that the Biden Administration has declined the Ukrainian government’s highest-priority military equipment transfer request of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

“The American people and their representatives in Congress have strongly supported arming Ukraine to defend its homeland against Russian tyranny. Toward this end, Congress provided the Pentagon with appropriations and drawdown authority to provide Ukraine the necessary firepower.

“Ukrainian successes on the battlefield are encouraging, but Vladimir Putin’s intent to conquer all of Ukraine remains unchanged. The timely provision of effective lethal aid to stabilize Ukrainian defenses and enable long-term resistance against future Russian aggression remains urgent.”

They note that Russia has been using Iranian UAS systems and that threatens to stall Ukraine’s momentum. “A Russian victory over Ukraine would significantly damage American security and prosperity, and enabling Ukraine’s preservation of its homeland remains a moral imperative and squarely within our national interests.”

They posed five questions to Austin regarding Department of Defense indecision on the matter and requested a reply by Nov. 30.

Other Ukrainian aid

The Hill reported on Wednesday that the U.S. will send Ukraine another $400 million in military assistance. The package includes arms, munitions, air defense missiles and vehicles, to be pulled from Defense Department inventories.

The Hill said this is the Biden administration’s 26th weapons drawdown since August 2021, totaling more than $19 billion in lethal aid since the start of the invasion in February.

GOP division

The letter was signed by 11 Republicans and five Democrats. But Republicans have become somewhat divided recently over supporting Ukraine. The opposition – chiefly from the far right – cites various reasons: It’s irresponsible to send money there that we need here, especially in light of the southern border crisis and ongoing inflation; Biden’s alleged ties to corrupt business deals in Ukraine through his son, Hunter; and in some cases simple opposition to Biden and support for Putin.

Asked about that division and her support for Ukraine, Capito said, “I’ve been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine from the very beginning of Russia’s unlawful invasion. I’ve visited the region, monitored, and applaud the Ukrainians’ resolve and determination.

“I believe we should continue to support them against Russian aggression, especially as we enter the winter months,” she said. “I’ve supported, and will support, financial assistance, but I have monitored the disbursement of these funds to ensure we use them wisely and most effectively, whether it be military equipment but also humanitarian aid as well.”

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