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NBC: Biden administration considering supplying Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 19, 2024 3:07 PM 3 min read
U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing a missile into the East Sea during a South Korea-U.S. joint missile drill on July 29, 2017. (South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
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The White House is prepared to send Ukraine long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) if Congress approves a new funding package, NBC News reported on Feb. 19, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

After months of deliberation, the U.S. delivered ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in October 2023, but they were an older model with a range of 165 kilometers. Newer variations of ATACMS have a maximum range of around 300 kilometers and have so far not been provided to Ukraine.

U.S. officials told NBC that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is prepared to send Ukraine the longer-range ATACMS variation in one of its first aid packages if Congress passes the funding bill.

The officials also said that it was possible the U.S. would ask its allies to provide long-range ATACMS to Ukraine with the expectation that the U.S. would refill depleted stockpiles.

The shorter-range ATACMS missiles were quickly put to use on the battlefield after their delivery in October 2023. Oleksii Danilov, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Secretary, said the ATACMS had "exceeded expectations" and created a noticeable impact on Russia's military operations.

There has been ongoing hesitation from Ukraine's Western allies about delivering long-range weapons that could potentially be used to strike within Russian territory.

Ukraine has continued to press its allies for longer-range weapons, including the newer ATACMS variations.

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that Ukraine's recent loss of Avdiivka, which had been under an intensified onslaught since October 2023 and was finally captured by Russian forces on Feb. 17, reflected the need for more long-range weapons.

Russia takes Avdiivka at steep price, as Ukraine forced to face shortcomings
The capture of Avdiivka is Russia’s first major achievement in nine months, but it doesn’t leave any side looking good. For Russia, it was a Pyrrhic victory that consumed an army’s worth of equipment and killed or mangled estimated tens of thousands of Russian men to capture

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had discussed the potential delivery of the longer-range ATACMS variant with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17.

"There is only one way to destroy Russian capabilities in Ukraine. It’s to hit deep into the occupied territories, bypassing Russian radio-electronic warfare and interceptors," Kuleba said, referring to the long-range ATACMS missiles.

The U.S. Senate approved a $95 billion funding package earlier in February, which contained $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, but U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far declined to bring it to a vote in the House.

NBC reported that a spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Department confirmed there is currently no funding available to send more military equipment and would not comment on the contents of any proposed future aid packages.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, NBC said.

Zelensky meets US Senators in Munich, discusses Ukraine aid
“Held a meeting with the U.S. Senate delegation in Munich. We spoke about Ukraine’s main defense needs, namely artillery systems and shells, long-range weapons, electronic warfare systems, and air defense support,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram.
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