In case you missed it –During a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) demanded answers from leaders in the intelligence community about the Biden administration’s unwillingness to transfer Polish MiGs to Ukraine.
A video of Senator Cotton’s remarks may be found here. Excerpts from his remarks are below.
Senator Cotton: Director Haynes, I want to address the administration’s fiasco of failing to help Poland transfer its aircraft to Ukraine. The Pentagon spokesman yesterday, cited your intelligence community quote, “the intelligence community has assessed the transfer of MiG 29 to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO.” The State Department spokesman said essentially the same thing earlier today. Since administration policymakers are justifying their hesitancy to help Poland transfer these aircraft by pointing to your intelligence community, could you tell us what is the basis for this alleged assessment that the transfer of these aircraft would be escalatory?
Director Haines: Thank you, Senator Cotton. So it is our analysts’ assessment that the transfer of these airplanes could be perceived as a significant escalation by the Russians. It is, they are obviously, an advanced and considerable weapon.
Senator Cotton: So I appreciate your analysts and their deep expertise and knowledge about this. I’m asking what specific evidence, information, intelligence, do they have that the transfer of these aircrafts, as opposed to anti-aircraft missiles that shoot Russian jets out of the sky, is going to be viewed as escalatory?
Senator Cotton: Here’s my opinion, you don’t have new intelligence. This is opinion. And in many cases, this is policymakers who are looking to the intelligence community to provide them cover for their hesitancy.
General Berrier, could you explain as an intelligence officer how Vladimir Putin might be a-okay with us transferring missiles that turn their tanks into burning piles of rubbish, or shoot their jets out of the sky? Yet transferring tactical aircraft is going to be unacceptable? Why is the latter escalatory and the former not escalatory?
Lt. Gen. Berrier: Senator Cotton, thank you, I will take a stab at that in open session here. I think when you look at anti-tank weapons and air defense, shoulder fire kinds of weapons, there’s a range of escalation. And I think in our view, that escalation ladder doesn’t get checked higher with those weapons versus something like combat aircraft.