The U.S. government is supplying Ukraine with modern multiple rocket launchers as part of a new security package to defend against Russian invasion. The White House said Tuesday evening (local time) that Ukraine had pledged not to attack targets on Russian territory with the U.S.-made Himars artillery system.
It said the system was part of a package worth $700 million (652 million euros) that also included projectiles, radar systems, Javelin anti-tank weapons, helicopters, vehicles and spare parts, among other items.
U.S. President Joe Biden wrote in a guest editorial for The New York Times that the modern missile systems should enable the attacked country to hit "key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine" with greater precision. At the same time, Biden assured, "We don't want a war between NATO and Russia." Nor was the U.S. seeking to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin. But if Russia did not have to pay a high price for attacking Ukraine, it could lead to the end of the rules-based international order and catastrophic consequences worldwide.
"As long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not intervene directly in this conflict, either by sending American troops into Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces," the U.S. president stressed. "We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We don't want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia."
Americans would continue to stand by the Ukrainian people, however, "because we know that freedom does not come for free," Biden wrote. "We want a democratic, independent, sovereign, and prosperous Ukraine that has the means to deter and defend against further aggression." The U.S. would continue to work with its partners on sanctions against Russia.
Biden emphasized that there are currently no indications that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. However, he said, Russia's "occasional rhetoric about rattling the nuclear saber" is in itself dangerous and irresponsible. "To be clear, any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict, on any scale, would be totally unacceptable to us and to the rest of the world and would have serious consequences."
That the U.S. was considering delivery of the Himars system had already been reported by U.S. media last week. But Biden had caused confusion Monday when he said they would not send missile systems to Ukraine that could hit Russian territory. According to his spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, the president said they would not be delivering missiles "for use outside the battlefield in Ukraine."
A senior U.S. government official said Tuesday evening, "The Ukrainians have assured us that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory." The U.S. would deliver projectiles with the Himars system that would only have a range of about 80 kilometers - specialized missiles for use in the system, by contrast, can travel up to 300 kilometers. CNN had reported fears in the U.S. government that Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory could result in retaliation against the United States.
The government official said during a phone call with journalists that since mid-April the Ukrainians had been pressing for the delivery of artillery. This, he said, had become the "top mission" for the United States. Almost all of 108 promised American M777 howitzers have already been delivered, he said. The range of these howitzers is said to be about 25 kilometers. The U.S. government has already launched several large packages to support Ukraine. Just recently, the U.S. Congress approved an aid package for Ukraine worth almost $40 billion.
Photo by Tim Mossholder