WASHINGTON (CNN) – Two top House Republicans have called on President Joe Biden to increase military support to Ukraine in its defense against Russian invasion, and reiterated support on both sides of the aisle for continued funding of Ukraine’s war effort.
Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said CNN’s Pamela Brown on State of the Union in a joint interview with House Secret Service Chairman Mike Turner that aired Sunday bipartisan support for Ukraine “is still very strong. ”
But as the war’s one-year anniversary approaches, McCaul warned that securing support for Ukraine could prolong the conflict, which could add to Russia’s advantages and allow anti-Ukrainian dissent to build.
“The longer (Biden administration officials) delay this, they are playing into the hands of (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin. He wants this to be a long, drawn out war because he knows he may lose — we could lose the will of the American people and therefore Congress,” the Texas Republican told CNN at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
The US and its allies have already sent nearly $50 billion in aid and equipment to Ukraine’s military over the past year. To keep this going and to rebuild its own stockpiles, the Pentagon is ramping up arms, launching the biggest ramp-up in munitions production in decades, and putting parts of the US defense industry on the brink of war even though America is technically not at war.
Asked by Brown if he thinks the US is considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, McCaul replied, “I hope so,” reiterating his concerns about a protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine while he noted, “I think the momentum is building on that happening.”
“The fact is, the longer they wait, the longer this conflict will go on,” McCaul said.
US Senator Lindsey Graham echoed this message when he called on the Biden administration to start training Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets “today” in order to get Ukraine equipped with the aircraft “as soon as possible”. .
The South Carolina Republican told ABC in an interview that aired Sunday that US lawmakers attending the Munich Security Conference “were virtually unanimous in their belief” that the US should stop training Ukrainian pilots in F-16s -combat aircraft should begin.
“I believe a decision will be imminent when we return to Washington that the government will begin training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16. They need the weapon system,” Graham said.
Turner, an Ohio Republican, defended congressional support for Ukraine despite several of his GOP colleagues in the House co-signing a “Ukraine Fatigue” resolution calling on the US to halt military and financial aid to the country . House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN last week that he opposes the resolution.
Turner equated the resolution with a letter more than two dozen progressive House Democrats sent to the White House last fall urging it to pursue diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine. The letter was withdrawn shortly thereafter.
“They have a handful on both sides, both sides, Pamela, who have been cautious or who have said that they do not support, or they want the support to end,” he said from Munich. “There are 435 members of Congress. There are probably 400 who are in favor of continuing in this direction and on this path.”
Chinese spy balloon suspected
McCaul also told CNN that the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over US airspace before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month contained parts made in the United States, urging the US to restrict the flow of weapons technology to China.
“By the way, this balloon contained a lot of American parts. We know that the hypersonic missile that flew around the world with precision was built on the backbone of American technology,” McCaul said, referring to Beijing’s nuclear test-capable hypersonic missile in 2021.
“They steal a lot of it from us. But we don’t have to sell them exactly the technology to incorporate into their advanced weapons systems, and then turn against either Pacific Pacific Taiwan or eventually the United States of America. I think there is a lot of bipartisanship on this issue,” he added.
Turner and McCaul also said they wanted Biden to take a more serious position on China after the balloon incident.
McCaul said tensions between the two countries “are very high right now” and that both Democrats and Republicans are united in their desire to counter Chinese threats.
“I think we have a unique opportunity to take a bipartisan approach to addressing one of the greatest threats to this country and the world on this issue of national security,” McCaul said.
Turner, meanwhile, said there was an opportunity for the Biden administration to “return to normal dialogue with China.”
“Of course nobody wants a cold war, but that’s not the point. What we want is a China that will not be an aggressor state, that will not build up its military, and that will not threaten the United States, and certainly not make the negative comments it does, rather than just openly apologizing for launching a spy balloon about our most sensitive military sites,” Turner said.
Adding to tensions between Washington and Beijing, the US has recently begun to see “worrying” trend lines in China’s support for the Russian military, and there are signs that Beijing wants to “sneak up on the line” to provide lethal military aid to Russia afford without getting caught, US officials familiar with the intelligence community told CNN.
The officials would not describe in detail what intelligence information the US has seen that points to a recent change in China’s stance, but said US officials were concerned enough to share the intelligence information with allies and partners at the Munich Security Conference had shared in the past few days.
“The most catastrophic thing that could happen to US-China relations, in my opinion, is for China to give (Russian leader Vladimir) lethal weapons to Putin and his crimes against humanity,” Graham told ABC.
“If you get on the Putin train now, you’re dumber than dirt. It would be like buying a ticket on the Titanic after seeing the movie. Don’t do that,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.