The Biden administration says it would deploy a modest number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, a key 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 US decision to send modern rocket systems attempts to find a compromise between the urge to assist Ukraine in combating intense Russian artillery barrages while avoiding providing armaments that may allow Ukraine to attack targets deep within Russia, causing the war to escalate.
President Joe Biden revealed his decision to “provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine” in a guest column published in The New York Times on Tuesday evening.
On Monday, Biden stated that the US will not supply Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into 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 deploy what the US deems medium-range rockets, which can go up to 70 kilometers (45 miles), according to authorities.
According to top administration sources, Ukrainian officials have promised US officials that no missiles would be fired into Russian territory. The improved rocket weapons, according to one official, will allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian assets in Ukraine with more precision.
Ukraine is expected to fire the rockets in the eastern Donbas area, where they might intercept Russian artillery and destroy Russian positions in places like Severodonetsk where battle is raging.
Severodonetsk is vital to Russia’s ambitions to retake the Donbass before more Western weapons arrive to shore up Ukraine’s defenses.
Severodonetsk, the city which is located 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Russian border, is located in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, and is the final enclave of Ukrainian government control.
“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to attack beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” Biden wrote in his New York Times editorial.
It is the 11th package authorized thus far, and it will be the first to use the $40 billion in security and economic aid just passed by Congress. The rocket systems would be part of the Pentagon’s drawdown authority, which would include withdrawing weapons from US stockpiles and immediately delivering them to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s soldiers 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 a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of around 300km (190 miles) and is not included in the plan.
Since the war began in February, the US and its allies have attempted to tread a fine line: giving Ukraine the weaponry it needs to fend off Russia while avoiding supplying help that may inflame Russian President Vladimir Putin and spark a wider confrontation that could spread to other areas of Europe.
However, as the war has evolved from Russia’s wider attempt to seize 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 increased the armament pouring into Ukraine.
- Russia Warns West Against Sending Long-range Arms to Ukraine