Senate Republicans aren't worried about sparking World War III by sending more US weapons to Ukraine. They say Putin is already 'escalating every single day.'

Senate Republicans aren't worried about sparking World War III by sending more US weapons to Ukraine. They say Putin is already 'escalating every single day.'
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio speaks about the Russian invasion in Ukraine at the Capitol on March 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Senate Republicans want Biden to send Ukraine whatever weapons it needs to defeat Russia.
  • Supplying 'lethal aid' is already happening, the GOP said, and Putin has objected to that.

A hawkish group of Senate Republicans said supplying Ukraine with all the "lethal military aid" it needs to repel Russian invaders won't draw the US any deeper into the conflict than it already is because Russian President Vladimir Putin has already personally declared war on America.

"He said 'We're at war with the United States' when we put the sanctions on," Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican of Idaho, told reporters at the US Capitol. "We're certainly not at war with Russia. He thinks we are."

Risch was one of 15 Republican lawmakers who repeatedly called on President Joe Biden to "do more" during an hour-long press conference responding to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea for immediate help.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus, brushed aside concerns that giving Zelenskyy what he wants — including fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles to defend against Russian airstrikes — would make America more of an active participant. Because, he said, it's already happening.

"This notion that providing additional lethal weaponry — which we've already been providing — is escalatory, I just don't buy it," Portman said at the Capitol. "Stinger missiles are taking down Russian airplanes with Russian pilots in them already. What we're talking about is just giving Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves."


Biden on Wednesday warned that the Ukraine-Russia war could be a "long and difficult one" and announced the US is sending $800 million worth of "cutting-edge systems" to Ukraine as part of a new defense package.

During Zelenskyy's televised address to Congress, the Ukrainian president shared a video showing the Russian attacks and destruction, leaving many lawmakers in tears.

Portman said the televised carnage Zelenskyy shared with Congress makes it "very difficult to say that the Russians are not escalating every single day."

"If you saw that video today, you can see they have now purposely targeted not just civilian targets, but hospitals and daycare centers. And in one case a maternity hospital," Portman said of Putin's ongoing assault. "He is literally killing innocent civilians, girls and boys, men and women, and grandparents in order to try to bludgeon them into submission. If that's not escalatory, I don't know what is."

Every single Republican lawmaker who spoke, however, stopped short of calling for committing US troops to the fight.


"I'm not suggesting that we put boots on the ground," Portman said. But I am suggesting that we do everything we can possibly do, short of that, in order to protect a sovereign country that is a great ally of ours."

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said she and her colleagues are willing to take "prudent risk" by sharing fighter jets and missile technology with Zelenskyy. And she urged Biden to do the same — before it's too late.

"America must do more," Ernst said. "We know Putin doesn't stop at the border of Ukraine."