The United States is expected to provide Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles, according to anonymous officials who spoke to ABC News on Friday. The decision comes after a surplus of these missiles was found in the Pentagon’s inventory. Kiev has been requesting these missiles for over a year, but the US has been hesitant to provide them due to concerns about escalating tensions with Russia.
One official stated, “They are coming,” while the other official noted that their transfer is still “on the table” and awaiting final approval from President Joe Biden. The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, also known as ATACMS, has a range of up to 300 kilometers and can be fired from platforms like the M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS. The US and UK have already sent these platforms to Ukraine.
The inclusion of the ATACMS missiles in Ukraine’s arsenal would enable their forces to strike targets deeper within Russia’s borders, including in Crimea. This is why the US has previously declined Ukraine’s requests for these missiles, as they feared it could lead to a larger conflict. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated last July that the US aims to support and defend Ukraine but also wants to prevent a scenario that could lead to a third world war.
The Pentagon and White House officials previously claimed that the US did not have enough surplus missiles to provide to Ukraine. However, both officials who spoke to ABC News stated that the US has discovered it has more ATACMS missiles in its inventory than initially estimated. This revelation was described as surprising. The specifics regarding the quantity and condition of these missiles remain unclear, but the White House has reportedly agreed to allow them to be used to target Crimea.
Former CIA officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mick Mulroy suggested specific targets in Crimea could include command and control centers, logistics hubs, ammunition facilities, and airbases. It is worth noting that Ukraine has previously used Western weapons to target civilian infrastructures in Crimea. For instance, several bridges were hit by British Storm Shadow cruise missiles earlier this year. Additionally, the larger Crimean Bridge, which connects the peninsula with mainland Russia, has been targeted by a truck bomb and naval drones, resulting in the deaths of five civilians.
Russia has repeatedly warned against the West’s provision of advanced weaponry to Ukraine, stating that it could spark a significant escalation in hostilities. Moscow’s deputy envoy to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, emphasized that amid the intense proxy-standoff between NATO and Russia, it is difficult to rule out any possibilities.
In conclusion, the US is likely to provide Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles following the discovery of a surplus in the Pentagon’s inventory. These missiles would give Ukraine the ability to strike targets deeper within Russia’s borders, including in Crimea. The decision is still pending final approval from President Joe Biden. Russia has expressed concerns about the potential escalation of hostilities resulting from the provision of advanced weaponry to Ukraine.