By Micaela Burrow, The Daily Caller News Foundation | September 12, 2023
The Biden administration is close to sending Ukraine the long-range missiles formerly considered a bridge too far in giving Kyiv the capability to strike Russian territory and risk major escalation, according to media reports.
Kyiv has begged for the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) since near the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, arguing the missile’s 190-mile range affords the ability to strike deep into Russian defensive positions and possibly the aggressor’s sovereign territory. However, the White House worried that long-range missiles could increase the chances of conflict traveling further west into Europe, while the Pentagon said it did not have ATACMS to spare, according to Politico.
“Our position all along has been we will get Ukraine the capabilities that will enable it to succeed on the battlefield,” Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said on the sidelines of the G-20 summit on Sunday. “We will continue to assess the situation on the ground and make decisions based on that.”
The Pentagon declined to detail U.S. inventories and said a decision had not been made yet when the Daily Caller News Foundation reached out for comment.
ATACMS are “coming” and “on the table,” one U.S. official told ABC News on Friday.
But, a decision is not final and could fall through, Reuters reported, also citing U.S. officials. If authorized, they would be available for rapid shipment to Ukraine as its military struggles to penetrate Russian lines and make progress in freeing occupied territory.
Ukraine will have input on the final decision, but Washington and Kyiv are not discussing any announcement or transfer of ATACMS, officials told Politico. Zelenskyy will visit New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting next week, but U.S. officials said that timeline is too condensed.
Ukraine has already obtained some long-range capabilities, including the United Kingdom-donated Storm Shadow missiles that can be fired from Ukraine’s Soviet-era jets and have a range of 150 miles, according to Politico. Ukraine’s military has used Storm Shadow missiles to strike Russian ammunition depots in occupied Crimea.
And last week, Ukraine claimed to have produced its own long-range missile, The Washington Post reported.
However, the ATACMS can launch from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a system the U.S. has donated in significant quantities and affords more flexibility in strike locations and methods.
Currently, Ukraine uses HIMARS to fire rockets with a 50-mile range, and the White House has pledged to send Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs that can travel up to 90 miles by the end of the year.
“We are moving. I hope we’ll get it in autumn,” Zelenskyy said, according to Politico. “For us, it’s very important not to do the pause in this counteroffensive and I need it very much.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned against sending long-range weapons to Ukraine in 2022 “to ensure that we don’t get into a situation in which we are approaching the Third World War,” Politico reported. A year later in the same context, he said the U.S. was “prepared to take risks.”
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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