I’ve been critical of Joe Biden’s foreign policy in the past (Afghanistan), and I anticipate I will be so again in the future (Iran). But this week, I found myself applauding the president for refusing to cave into domestic and foreign pressure to transport Polish MiG jets to Ukraine. This was a wise decision, and those who oppose it, such as Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, are in the wrong.

The invasion of Ukraine is a crime of aggression committed by Russia. That is plain. It is also true that there were avoidable and therefore needless missteps by previous U.S. administrations. Sorting out how it all came to pass will keep historians and security experts in business for decades to come.

But we are all in the midst of the situation now, and our nation must pick its way through as wisely as we can. The Western response has included stiff economic sanctions (with some notable loopholes), closure of Western air space to Russia, the dumping of Russian assets and investments, hacking of Russian cyberspace by various parties, and of course massive shipments of conventional arms and other materials into western Ukraine.

Previously neutral nations such as Sweden and Finland are now weighing NATO membership. Some actions around the margins are even being taken concerning Russian oil and gas: the U.S. is banning imports, and even Nord Stream 2 has been suspended by the Germans.

Despite these measures, the Russian incursion proceeds apace. The Ukrainians are desperately pleading for the West to establish a no-fly zone over the country. Because the use of NATO pilots would directly involve NATO, Poland offered to give the 28 or so MiG-29 jets in its air force to the Ukrainians, whose pilots are trained to fly these planes. The catch was always how to get them there, since Russia asserted that any fighter planes flying into Ukrainian airspace from a NATO country would be treated as a NATO attack on Russian forces.

The Biden administration originally “green lighted” Poland’s idea, but then Poland — perhaps with its feet starting to feel chilly — announced it would fly the planes to the American air base in Ramstein, Germany, and let the Americans take it from there.

At this point, Biden rightly said, in effect, “no way.” The U.S. would not be transferring planes from an American air base to the Ukrainians, for the U.S. would thereby become a combatant in the eyes of Russia. And not only would the U.S. become a combatant, but all of NATO would as well. NATO, which operates by consensus, would never agree to an American move which would engulf the entire continent of Europe in a (potentially nuclear) war over Ukraine, a country which is not a member of NATO.

But Romney, along with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, led a call of 40 senators to condemn Biden’s decision. Their signed letter states, “While we commend the lethal aid that your Administration has sent to Ukraine thus far, we strongly disagree with your decision to delay and deny Poland the option to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine.”

Apparently convinced that Biden is not going to do something stupid, these 42 senators, who should be ashamed of themselves, have chosen to make political hay out of the situation by attacking him for not being stupid.

Romney went even further, saying: “Enough talk. People are dying. Send them the planes that they need. They say they need MiGs ... They want MiGs. Get them the MiGs.”

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This is the kind of rushed judgment that leads to catastrophic foreign policy decision-making. The U.S. has traveled this road before. “Do something!” imperatives must be carefully examined to gauge whether they are likely to lead to the end-state outcomes we wish to see. It’s not possible to make such a case about the Polish MiGs.

Perhaps these senators are too far removed from the days of the Cold War to remember what we know about the destructive power of nuclear weapons. As commentator Rod Dreher perceptively put it, “People who are thrilled over the moral clarity of the moment must have forgotten that the Cold War, with the terror of nuclear war hanging over our heads constantly, was a time of moral clarity, too.”

I’m glad that at 79, Joe Biden is old enough to remember what’s at stake in this decision. Mitt Romney, who’s only five years younger at 74, should know better.

Valerie M. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and a Deseret News contributor. Her views are her own.

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