A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Biden administration to send armed drones to Ukraine, led by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
They argued in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent on Tuesday that sending General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones has “the potential to drive the strategic course of the war in Ukraine’s favor.”
“The American people and their representatives in Congress have strongly supported arming Ukraine to defend its homeland against Russian tyranny,” they wrote, adding:
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.
Senators signing the letter included: Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins, (R-ME), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
They said the Pentagon has considered transferring the systems to Ukraine for months and argued that Iranian drones used in Russia “threaten 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 wrote.
They added Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova have repeatedly requested the drones and that it would take only 27 days for Ukrainian forces to learn how to operate. The drones would be a “profound near-term upgrade to Ukraine’s military.”
They argued the drones could attack Russian artillery formations and logistics hubs, erode Russia’s long-range fires advantage, and attack Russian warships in the Black Sea and break its coercive blockade and alleviate pressures on the Ukrainian economy and global food prices.
Among some of the concerns of the Biden administration is the drone and its accompanying sensitive technologies ending up in Russia’s hands, according to Politico. Other concerns include the system taking too long to learn how to operate and being too challenging for the Ukrainian military, as well as not being survivable in the war, due to Russian air defenses.
The Biden administration has provided Ukraine with a plethora of U.S. military equipment to date, but has been hesitant to provide equipment that could escalate the war.
Austin pledged just last week that the U.S. would not be drawn into the war, thought it would continue to support Ukraine with weapons.
The Biden administration has sent approximately $18 billion worth of security assistance since the beginning of the war in Ukraine with Russia.