The Biden administration has announced that it will deploy a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, a crucial weapon that Ukrainian authorities have been pleading for as they try to halt Russian advancement in the Donbas region.
According to two senior administration officials, the rocket systems are part of a new $700 million tranche of security support for Ukraine from the US, which will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank missile systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts, and more. The officials talked on the condition of anonymity in order to give a sneak peek at the weaponry package, which will be disclosed in full on Wednesday.
The United States’ decision to send advance rocket systems attempts to find a compromise between the urge to assist Ukraine in combating Russian artillery barrages while also avoiding providing armaments that may allow Ukraine to attack targets deep within Russia, perhaps escalating the war.
President Joe Biden revealed his decision to “supply the Ukrainians with more modern rocket launchers and weapons that would enable them to more precisely hit vital targets on the battlefield in Ukraine” in a guest column published Tuesday evening in The New York Times.
On Monday, Biden stated that the US will not supply Ukraine “rocket systems capable of striking inside Russia.” If a military system is near enough to the Russian border, it can fire into Russia. The assistance package, which is due to be presented on Wednesday, would include medium-range missiles, which can fly around 45 miles (70 kilometers), according to authorities.
According to top administration officials, the Ukrainians have guaranteed US authorities that they will not launch rockets into Russian territory. According to one official, the upgraded rocket weapons will allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian assets within Ukraine with better precision.
Ukraine is expected to fire the rockets in the eastern Donbas area, where they might intercept Russian artillery and destroy Russian positions in towns like Sievierodonetsk where combat is severe.
Sievierodonetsk is crucial to Russia’s plans to retake the Donbass region before more Western armaments arrive to reinforce Ukraine’s defense. The city, which is 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the Russian border, is located in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, where it is the final enclave under Ukrainian government control.
“We are not encouraging or allowing Ukraine to strike beyond its boundaries,” Biden wrote in his New York Times op-ed. We don’t want to keep the conflict going only to hurt Russia.”
It’s the 11th package to be authorized so far, and it’ll be the first to use the $40 billion in security and economic aid that Congress recently approved. The rocket systems would be part of the Pentagon’s drawdown authority, which would include withdrawing weapons from the United States’ stockpile and immediately delivering them to Ukraine. Ukraine’s military would need to be trained on the new equipment, which may take a week or two.
The aim, according to officials, is to supply Ukraine the HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which is placed on a truck and can transport a container with six missiles. The system can shoot a medium-range rocket, which is the present plan, but it can also fire the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of around 190 miles (300 kilometers) and is not part of the plan.
Since the crisis began in February, the US and its allies have attempted to tread a fine line between sending Ukraine the weaponry it needs to combat Russia while avoiding supplying supplies that would enrage Russian President Vladimir Putin and spark a wider confrontation that may spread across Europe.
However, as the war has evolved from Russia’s wider attempt to capture the capital, Kyiv, and other cities to more close-contact clashes over tiny patches of terrain in the east and south, the US and its allies have beefed up the armament pouring into Ukraine.
To that end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with the West to deliver multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine as quickly as possible in order to assist stop Russia from destroying villages in the Donbas. The rockets have a larger range than the US-supplied howitzer artillery systems in Ukraine. They would let Ukrainian forces to hit Russian troops from a distance beyond the range of Russian fire.
In a recent speech, Zelenskyy said, “We are fighting for Ukraine to be equipped with all the weaponry needed to change the nature of the struggle and start advancing quicker and more confidently toward the expulsion of the occupiers.”
According to Philip Breedlove, a retired US Air Force general who served as NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016, Ukraine need multiple launch rocket systems.
“These are critical talents that we have yet to acquire.” “They not only need them, but they have been extremely vocal in expressing their desire for them,” Breedlove added. “We need to get serious about supporting this army so that it can achieve what the world expects of it: fight a world superpower alone on the battlefield,” says the general.
Officials from the United States and the White House declined to comment on the details of the aid package.
“For our Ukrainian partners, we continue to evaluate a variety of solutions that have the potential to be useful on the battlefield.” “However, the president made it clear that we will not be supplying long-range missiles for use outside of the Ukrainian battlefield,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “As the battle’s dynamics have altered, we’ve shifted the sort of security aid we’re providing to them, in part because they’ve requested for various methods that will be more successful in regions like the Donbas.”
Russia has been making little gains in the Donbas as it strives to retake the remaining areas of the territory that are not already under the hands of rebels supported by Russia.
Putin has cautioned the West several times against deploying more armament to Ukraine. Putin conducted an 80-minute phone chat with the presidents of France and Germany on Saturday, according to the Kremlin, in which he cautioned against future Western armament deliveries.
Since the beginning of the Biden administration, the US has contributed around $5 billion in security aid to Ukraine, including approximately $4.5 billion since Russia invaded on February 24.