A few hours later, Joe Biden denied the statements of his national security adviser Jake Sullivan and gave in after more than a year of strong diplomatic pressure from Ukraine. After Volodymyr Zelensky’s second visit to the White House since the start of the Russian invasion, the President of the United States on Friday finally approved the delivery of the famous Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) long-range missiles to Kiev.
The decision had already been made before the Ukrainian head of state entered the Oval Office again. However, Biden avoided making a public announcement, according to the Financial Times.
The US President had announced an aid package worth $325 million, which included air defense and additional cluster munitions. He also said that American M1 Abrams tanks would arrive in Ukraine next week. But ATACMS were not included in this new aid shipment.
The White House made it clear that only a few units would arrive in Ukraine, but the use of these missiles could influence the development of the war. So far, Ukraine has used long-range British and French Storm Shadow missiles as well as shorter-range US-made Himars guided missiles to attack Russian forces’ logistics, weapons depots and command posts in a counteroffensive that has not yet begun.
In fact, on Friday the Ukrainian army attacked the headquarters of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea with Storm Shadow missiles.
But the ATACMS represents an important qualitative leap. These missiles, also made in the USA, have a range of up to 300 kilometers, allowing Ukraine to target supply lines, air bases and railway networks in the rear of the front, well behind the enemy line can attack occupied territories by Russia.
However, it will be several months before the Ukrainian military is ready to use these missiles. First of all, existing launchers would have to be adapted, personnel specifically trained and logistics prepared, experts emphasize.
There have been months of intensive consultations within the Biden administration. There were doubts about the advisability of supplying this type of weapons to Ukraine. On the one hand, because of the possibility that it could anger the Kremlin and further escalate the conflict. On the other hand, for the Pentagon’s own needs.
Ukraine, for its part, has pledged not to direct ATACMS at targets on Russian soil, the Wall Street Journal reports.