US President Joe Biden and his team are still considering sending longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine but do not want them to be used to launch attacks inside Russian territory, the White House said on Tuesday. .
US officials said Biden and his national security aides are in the final stages of preparing a new arms package for Ukraine with an announcement expected soon, possibly as early as Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials have asked their allies for longer-range systems, including the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, which can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away, in hopes of turning the tide in the war of three months.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that system was under consideration.
“But as the president said, we will not send long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine,” she said. Other US officials said Biden did not want them launched on Russian territory to avoid expanding the war in Ukraine.
Biden told reporters on Tuesday that “we’re not going to send rocket systems into Ukraine that hit Russia.”
He didn’t rule out providing a specific weapon system, but rather seemed to set conditions on how they could be used. Biden and his team are working on a new set of military equipment using some of the money from a $40 million budget appropriation approved by the US Congress.
The MLRS was under consideration, but nothing with long-range strike capabilities outside of battlefield use, a senior administration official said.
Biden wants to help Ukraine defend itself but has opposed supplying weapons that Ukraine could use to attack Russia.
Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and its Western allies call it a baseless pretext for a war to take over territory.
The West is increasingly willing to give Ukraine longer-range weapons, including M777 howitzers, as its force battles the Russians with more success than intelligence officials had anticipated.
But US intelligence has also warned of growing risks, especially given the mismatch between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparent ambitions and the performance of his military.
Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday.
(Except for the title, follow The AU Times on Social Platforms.)