US explains why it won’t supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles
Washington is not supplying Kiev with longer-range ATACMS missiles at present because most Russian targets are within range of other weapons, a senior Pentagon official has explained.
The assessment was made on Wednesday by US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl as he briefed the media on military assistance being provided to Ukraine.
“It’s our assessment that they don’t currently require ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight,” he said. “It’s our judgment at the moment that we should be focusing on GMLRS, not ATACMS.”
Both types of missiles can be fired by the US-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launchers, which the US and the UK have supplied to Ukraine.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) projectiles are launched in salvos, are smaller, and have a range of up to 80km.
The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is a larger tactical-level ballistic missile that can travel up to 300km.
Ukraine has long said that it wants ATACMS munitions from the US to engage Russian targets behind the frontline. One of the objects that Ukrainian officials said they wanted to destroy is the bridge that connects Crimea with mainland Russia.
The bridge is the longest in Europe and is predominantly used by civilian vehicles and trains. Kiev claims it is a legitimate military target because it can be used to deliver troops and military supplies to the peninsula, which Ukraine considers temporarily occupied by Russia.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan earlier voiced concerns that supplying Ukraine with ATACMS missiles could escalate the conflict and lead to a world war. Kahl said the reason for not sending them was purely military and based on the reports that Ukraine provides to the US.
Washington’s aid packages are tailored in a way that will allow Ukrainian troops to keep fighting in the long run and operate the weapons systems provided, the under secretary said. Ukraine may not be getting billions of dollars of international assistance “10 years from now, or 20 years from now,” he added.