President Joe Biden has announced that the U.S. is sending longer-range missiles to the Ukraine to help its forces fight against Russian invaders. The move is being interpreted by some as a sharp turnaround from his earlier vow that the U.S. was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia,” although Ukraine has agreed not to use the new missiles for that purpose.
The new weapons package for Ukraine contains what Biden described as “more advanced rocket systems and munitions.” The $700 million package, which is the 11th one to be approved so far, includes tactical vehicles, javelin antitank missiles, helicopters and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, among other advanced weapons.
However, he made a point of emphasizing that while the weapons will help the Ukrainians defend themselves, the administration is not enabling Ukraine to attack Russia. Ukraine officials had been pushing for systems like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, but it is only being provided on the condition that it is not used to strike across the border.
“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Biden stated. “We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”
However, the weapons systems are capable of being shot into Russia if they are fired close to the border. The package also includes medium-range rockets, which can travel around 45 miles.
Ukraine is expected to use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region for intercepting Russian artillery and taking out Russian positions in towns that have been seeing intense fighting. One area where they may prove useful is Severodonetsk, a city situated 90 miles south of the Russian border that has been the last piece of land to stay under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region
HIMARS can be mounted on a truck and holds six rockets. In addition to firing medium-range rockets, it can also fire the longer-range Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of 190 miles but does not figure into the current plan. Although Biden has not ruled out providing any specific types of weapons systems, the administration does appear to be placing conditions on how they can be used.
In a guest essay published by the New York Times, Biden tried to allay fears about nuclear attacks while warning the Putin regime to act carefully.
“We currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible.”
He cautioned: “Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.”
At the same time, Germany has pledged to provide Ukraine with modern radar systems and anti-aircraft missiles as the country has been coming under fire for not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian invaders. Ukraine has also received Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.
As the war continues, the U.S. and its allies have been trying to strike the delicate balance between helping Ukrainians fight off Russia without enraging Putin and potentially triggering a bigger conflict that impacts other areas of Europe.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, with millions more displaced since the beginning of the Russian invasion in late February. Moscow has characterized it as a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine, but it is widely being viewed as a pretext to seize Ukrainian territory.
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