US senators divided over Ukraine ammo – media
While some US senators want to send long-range missiles to the Ukrainian forces, others would like to see military plans first, or are worried about Pentagon stockpiles running low, the Daily Beast has reported.
The White House’s supposed reluctance to send ATACMS missiles for HIMARS rocket launchers is apparently further complicating matters, because the move might be seen as an escalation by Russia.
So far, the Pentagon has sent Ukraine 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), along with Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munitions with a range of about 70km. Kiev has been asking for Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) projectiles, however, which have a range of almost 300km.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is concerned that the US doesn’t have that many ATACMS, which take a long time to manufacture. The Pentagon currently has between 1,000 and 3,000 such missiles in its inventory, according to the Beast.
Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) told the outlet she wanted to see Ukraine’s strategic plans before considering requests for longer-range ammunition.
“We have to see what their strategic plan is,” said Rosen. “What we have to do, what Ukraine has to do, and what we’re working with them to do is to develop a strategic plan moving forward and then trying to be sure that we get them the appropriate help that they need in order to execute that plan,” she added.
While the New York Times reported in June that Kiev is keeping Washington largely in the dark about its strategy, last week a top Ukrainian general revealed US military involvement in directing HIMARS strikes.
Lieutenant Colonel Garron J. Garn, a Department of Defense spokesperson, told the Daily Beast that the US is “providing the Ukrainians [with] a range of capabilities commensurate with the fight they are executing, based on the requirements the Ukrainians have identified for us.” The currently supplied ammunition can handle “most” of Ukraine’s targets, Garn added.
Some Senate Republicans, however, believe President Joe Biden is hesitant to send the longer-ranged missiles out of fear.
“They think that is escalatory, but I reject that,” Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told the Beast. He co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and will not seek re-election in November. His colleague Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the administration is “risk averse” and worries too much about escalation.
“We need to make sure that we’re pounding Russia,” she said.
So far, the US has sent 16 HIMARS units to Ukraine, which Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl called “actually quite a lot” in a Monday briefing. The UK and Germany have provided several more launchers capable of firing the same ammunition.
The Russian military said it had destroyed at least four HIMARS launchers so far, offering photographic evidence of the strikes. Both Kiev and the Pentagon have denied this, but offered no proof to back up their claims.