Escalation Nation: US Likely to Send Long-range Missiles to Ukraine

September 10th, 2023 - by Matt Seyler / ABC News

“They Are Coming,” One Official Told ABC News:
Biden’s Latest Escalation of US War in Ukraine
Matt Seyler / ABC News

(September 9, 2023) — The Biden administration is likely to send Ukraine long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, to help in its fight to repel the Russian invasion of its territory, according to US officials.

“They are coming,” said one official who had access to security assistance plans. The official noted that, as always, such plans are subject to change until officially announced.

A second official said the missiles are “on the table” and likely to be included in an upcoming security assistance package, adding that a final decision has not been made. It could be months before Ukraine receives the missiles, according to the official.

But pressed on the matter by ABC News, White House spokesman John Kirby said a decision hasn’t been made.

“There’s no decision on ATACMS right now,” Kirby said during the interview, in New Delhi, India.

“As the president has said, they’re not off the table,” Kirby added. “We continue to discuss the viability of ATACMS.”

With a range of up to 190 miles, depending on the version, deploying ATACMS could allow Ukraine to reach targets nearly four times further away than with the currently-provided rockets for its US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and M270 multiple-launch rocket systems.

The Pentagon’s “Deep Strike” missile. 

The administration has until now rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s requests for the weapons, even after the United Kingdom and France have sent comparable Storm Shadow missiles, due to concerns both over escalation with Russia and of maintaining America’s own stockpiles.

In July of 2022, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US was “prepared to take risk,” but implied that sending ATACMS could lead to direct conflict with Russia.

“There are certain capabilities the president has said he is not prepared to provide. One of them is long-range missiles, ATACMS, that have a range of 300 kilometers, because he does believe that while a key goal of the United States is to do the needful to support and defend Ukraine, another key goal is to ensure that we do not end up in a circumstance where we are heading down the road towards a third world war,” he said at the Aspen Security Forum.

One year later at the same event, Sullivan was less definitive.

“Whether or not we ultimately give ATACMS will be a decision for the president. He has spoken with President Zelenskyy about it. They continue to have that conversation,” he said this July.

The Biden administration has taken an incremental approach with the types of weapons it has sent to Ukraine since the invasion, ramping up from handheld launchers, to sophisticated air-defense platforms, to armored vehicles, and reversing earlier decisions not to send Abrams tanks or to train Ukrainians on advanced F-16 fighters.

With Ukrainian forces struggling to break through heavily-defended Russian lines more than expected in its ongoing counteroffensive, political pressure in Washington over sending military aid has increased — along with a desire to see more progress on the battlefield.

A surprising discovery could also ease the administration’s choice to send the weapons: The US has found it has more ATACMS in its inventory than originally assessed, the two officials told ABC News.

Nicolas D — When the 2023 NDAA included a provision for a multi-year contract to buy 6,000 ATACMS, it was clearly not to “maintain US stockpiles,” as this article suggests, since the US had only fired 560 of them in combat, mostly in Iraq in 2003, and Lockheed’s production line was shut down in 2007 after producing 3,700 of them.
This weapon was being phased out and replaced with the new “
Precision Strike Missile,” since the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty allowed it to deploy these new longer-rage missiles in Europe.
As Mark Cancian at CSIS
 explained, “This isn’t replacing what we’ve given [Ukraine]. It’s building stockpiles for a major ground war [with Russia] in the future. This is not the list you would use for China. For China we’d have a very different list.

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