Despite ongoing pleas from Kiev and pressure from some US lawmakers, President Joe Biden’s Administration is showing no signs of changing its policy on supplying Ukraine with the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), according to the Washington Post. Defense and administration officials, speaking anonymously, have dismissed the perception that there is a “slow, gravitational pull” towards approving longer-range munitions, stating that there has been no substantive discussion or policy change for months.
Ukrainian officials have been advocating for the supply of ATACMS for months, asserting that it would enable them to recapture territories lost to Russia, including Crimea. The long-awaited military pushback, which began in early June, has so far yielded minimal gains for Ukraine and has resulted in significant losses in manpower and hardware.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky recently lamented that the lack of Western-supplied weapons has hampered their counteroffensive efforts and highlighted the Russian advantage in long-range weaponry. Zelensky’s presidential staff reinforced the need for ATACMS at the Aspen Security Forum, emphasizing their dependence on Western decisions.
However, US officials have repeatedly stated that they will not provide Ukraine with ATACMS due to concerns that it could escalate the conflict and provoke a wider conflict if used to strike targets in Russian territory. In contrast, the United Kingdom has supplied Ukraine with its own Storm Shadow long-range missiles, with approval presumably obtained from Washington.
The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon’s stockpiles of ATACMS are severely limited. Since production began in the 1980s, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has manufactured only around 4,000 ATACMS, with around 900 sold to allies and many more utilized by the US Army in the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The lingering debate over supplying ATACMS to Ukraine reflects the delicate balancing act the Biden administration faces in providing assistance while avoiding actions that could escalate the conflict with Russia. The restricted supply of ATACMS further complicates the issue, making it unlikely that Ukraine will receive these missiles anytime soon.