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Washington, Berlin signal potential policy change, paving way for permission for Ukraine to strike Russian territory

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 30, 2024 12:29 PM 3 min read
A Patriot anti-aircraft missile system launcher stands at the air base on June 17, 2023, in Bavaria, Germany. (Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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U.S. and Germany are signaling a potential change to their long-standing policy of not allowing Ukraine to strike military targets on Russian territory with U.S. and German-supplied weapons, according to recent statements and two articles published by Politico on May 29.

The U.S. and Germany are the top providers of military aid to Ukraine. Both countries have repeatedly said that Ukraine should not use their weapons to strike Russian territory due to fears this would lead to an escalation of the war.

Responding to a reporter's question on the matter on May 29, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. has  "adapted and adjusted as necessary" at every step of the war, "so that's exactly what we'll do going forward."

Speaking at a press conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Chisinau, Blinken said that the adjustments have been made "as the nature of the battlefield has changed, as the locations," and as "the means that Russia is employing have changed."

Politico reported that according to Biden administration officials, "no final decision has been made" and that Blinken was describing a general trend of U.S. support for Ukraine.

However, the topic is still "under consideration" in Washington, Politico said, citing a U.S. official familiar with the issue.

Calls for Ukraine to be allowed to strike military targets on Russian territory with Western weapons have grown after Russia launched a new offensive in Kharkiv Oblast on May 10, with 30,000 troops reportedly involved in the operation.

WSJ: US concerned about Ukrainian strikes on early-warning radars on Russian soil, official says
Washington expressed its concerns to Kyiv about the two attacks against radar stations that provide conventional air defense as well as warning of nuclear launches by the West, the article read.

Kyiv said it was unable to launch preemptive strikes on Russian forces amassing on the border due to the restrictions on how Western weapons may be used.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a declaration on May 27 that supported an end to restrictions that prohibited Ukraine's use of Western-supplied weapons against military targets inside Russia.

The next day, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and said that Ukraine should be allowed to strike military bases on Russian territory from which Moscow carries out missile attacks against Ukraine.

Scholz said at the press conference that Ukraine could use German-supplied weapons "within the framework of international law," days after saying that Germany had given clear rules to Ukraine prohibiting the use of German weapons on Russian soil and that he saw no reason to change this.

According to Politico, Scholz is now "in favor of allowing the use of Western weapons against targets inside Russia," citing a person familiar with the German government's position.

In the past, Berlin and Washington allegedly threatened to suspend deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles to Kyiv after it "at least once" used Patriot surface-to-air missiles over Russian territory, the German tabloid Bild reported on May 28 without disclosing its sources.

The three countries have not officially commented on these claims.

In turn, an undisclosed U.S. official reportedly told the Washington Post that the U.S. imposed no restrictions on Ukraine using American air defenses to down Russian missiles or jets over Russian territory "if they pose a threat to Ukraine."

Finland, Canada, Poland don’t prohibit Ukraine from striking targets in Russia with their weapons
Representatives of Finland, Canada, and Poland issued separate statements on May 29 saying Ukraine can use their weapons to strike targets on Russian territory.
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