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Top Republicans push for longer-range weapons for Ukraine

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 2, 2023 9:10 PM 3 min read
A screenshot of an ATACMS launch on Oct. 17, 2023. (Valerii Zaluzhnyi/Telegram)
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Four senior Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate signed a letter urging President Joe Biden to send longer-range weapons to Ukraine, Reuters reported on Nov. 2.

The letter, seen by Reuters, was signed by Representatives Michael McCaul and Mike Rogers and Senators James Risch and Roger Wicker, top Republicans on congressional foreign relations and armed services committees.

While they appreciated that the White House had finally delivered Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, the group also said that weapons with longer range were sorely needed.

"Ukraine's requirement for deep-strike capability remains urgent, particularly to range targets throughout Crimea," the letter read.

The U.S. has sent Ukraine a small batch of ATACMS, which first saw use in strikes against Russian military airfields in occupied Ukraine on Oct. 17.

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Representative Mike Johnson, elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 25, has been deemed bad news for Ukraine. Johnson regularly voted against aid for Ukraine and was backed by the Ukraine-skeptic hard-right in his bid for speakership after the weeks-long scramble to replace th…

Their delivery was conditioned on a pledge that Ukraine would not use them on Russian territory.

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov said that the ATACMS had "exceeded expectations" and caused a decrease in attacks by Russian helicopters.

However, the ATACMS delivered by the U.S. are an older variant and have a range of 165 kilometers. Newer variations of ATACMS have a maximum range of around 300 kilometers.

Ukraine has continued to hit targets far behind the front lines in occupied territories, including the alleged destruction of at least four Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers reported on Nov. 2.

The Republicans' letter came as Congress debates future funding packages for Ukraine, which have currently been stymied by infighting.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Nov. 1 that he supports funding for Ukraine, in an apparent reversal of his previous position on the matter. Johnson said he would back additional aid to Ukraine, but did not support combining it with funding for Israel.

Republicans suggested a proposal to create a stand-alone funding package for Israel alone, but the White House said on Oct. 31 that President Joe Biden would likely veto any such package if it did not include aid for Ukraine.

Poll: Republican support for Ukraine has declined, reaching new lows
A recent Gallup poll showed there is a significant partisan divide. A strong majority (62%) of Republicans think the U.S. is doing too much to help, while only 14% of Democrats think so. Independents remain in the middle at 44%.
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