President Zelensky addresses US Congress

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After an emotional plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for more weapons that would help him control his country’s skies, senators and advisers debated what to do next.

Many lawmakers agreed that American enforcement of a no-fly zone would put the US in a direct fight with Russia. Still, there was a bipartisan consensus that the US needed to do more to supply arms, including sending fighter jets that the Pentagon said would be too risky to transfer.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the video is particularly powerful because it compels members of Congress to “imagine themselves in this situation.” What if this was my church? What if those were my people, how would I respond?

She added: “We need to step up our game here and make sure we do everything we can to make sure they push back the Russians.”

Ms Ernst said Wednesday’s speech made her “even more steadfast” in her belief that the US needed to send more weapons, even as the Pentagon said handing over additional fighter jets to Ukraine’s air force was a high risk.

Democrats and Republicans were receptive to Mr. Zelensky’s calls for the S-300, an air defense system first made by the Soviet Union and later by Russia that can down planes and cruise missiles.

Because these ground-to-air systems are not made in the US, part of any US role would be to help Eastern European allies transferring their equipment to Ukraine to receive new systems, said Sen. James Lankford (R., Oklahoma). a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, noting that the US relies on the Patriot surface-to-air missile system.

Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D., RI) said Ukraine also wants switchblades, a type of drone capable of deadly attacks. “We’re asking about the status,” said Mr. Reed.

On Capitol Hill, officials from both parties observed Mr. Zelensky’s remarks and said they wondered if the US was being dragged into a war and risking an attack on US troops that would be the catalyst for a protracted US military engagement, just like Pearl Harbor the US into World War II and the September 11 terrorist attacks led to the longest US war in history.

Some lawmakers suggested that the US must resist the temptation to act impulsively – or too publicly.

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Connecticut), a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was open to “increasing our military commitment,” but said it wasn’t up to Congress to debate it publicly.

“I mean, there’s a level of war strategy that’s better housed within the administration,” he said. “For us to wire to Russia every day, our divisions and what kind of defense support Ukraine should get and wire exactly what weapons systems were transferred, I don’t know if it’s helpful.”

“We don’t need them to lose more slowly. We need them to win,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said of Ukraine. “To kill Russians, they need more weapons,” he said, citing more ground-to-air defenses, aircraft and ammunition.

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