According to various individuals, the Biden administration is planning to increase the type of armament it is supplying Ukraine by deploying modern, long-range rocket launchers, which are currently the top priority from Ukrainian authorities.
The administration is considering providing the equipment to Ukraine as part of a broader package of military and security aid that may be disclosed as early as next week.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials have lobbied with the US and its allies to supply the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, in recent weeks. The US-made missile systems can launch a volley of rockets hundreds of kilometers away, well beyond any of Ukraine’s existing capabilities, which the Ukrainians believe might prove a gamechanger in their conflict with Russia.
The HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Weapon), a lighter wheeled device capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as the MLRS, is another system Ukraine has requested.
Ukraine has been hammered by Russia in the east in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian authorities, where Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned.
Officials claimed the Biden administration debated whether to transfer the systems for weeks because of worries voiced within the National Security Council that Ukraine may use them to launch offensive assaults within Russia.
Officials said the subject was at the top of the agenda during last week’s two White House meetings where deputy Cabinet members met to discuss national security strategy. The issue at hand was the same one that the administration has been grappling with since the beginning of the war: whether delivering increasingly powerful equipment to Ukraine will be seen by Russia as a provocation, prompting retribution against the US.
The enormous range of the rocket systems had been a key stumbling block, according to the sources. Depending on the kind of munition, the MLRS and its lighter-weight variant, the HIMARS, may launch as far as 300 kilometers (186 miles). They are launched from a mobile truck against land-based targets, allowing the Ukrainians to hit targets inside Russia with more ease.
Ukraine is suspected of carrying out a number of cross-border strikes within Russia, which Ukrainian officials have yet to acknowledge or deny. Russian authorities have stated openly that any danger to their nation would be a serious escalation, and that by continuing to arm the Ukrainians, western countries are making themselves a legitimate target in the war.
According to the sources, another big issue inside the Biden administration was whether the US could afford to send away so many high-end weapons taken from the military’s inventories.
When asked if the US would deliver the systems on Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declined. He told reporters, “I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process of resourcing requirements.”
The administration had similar reservations about sending more MiG-29 fighter fighters to Ukraine, which some feared would allow the Ukrainians to carry the fight to Russia. In the end, the US opted against providing new planes to Poland, which would have allowed the Poles to arm Ukraine with Soviet-era MiGs.
The MLRS discussion is reminiscent of the one that raged before the US chose to supply heavier, longer-range Howitzers to Ukraine last month. Small guns and ammunition, as well as anti-tank Javelin and short-range Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, were included in the weapons packages. The M777 Howitzers provided a major boost in range and power over earlier weapons at the time, although even they only have a range of roughly 25 kilometers (18 miles). The MLRS can shoot significantly further than any of the US artillery that has been deployed so far.
According to authorities, one solution may be to give Ukraine with shorter-range rocket systems, which is also being considered. Officials told CNN that training the Ukrainians on any of the missile launcher systems would not take long — likely two weeks.
Every reduction in current stocks necessitates a consideration of the impact on US military preparedness. The danger has been “quite modest” in prior drawdowns, according to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. He said that the military is looking “very, very closely” to ensure that stockpiles don’t fall below levels that pose a higher risk.
According to the sources, the risk develops dramatically with more competent, more expensive equipment, of which the US does not have a huge supply.
According to a person familiar with the conversation, Pentagon officials met with Lockheed Martin’s CEO last week to discuss supplies and scaling up manufacturing of the MLRS. Bill LaPlante, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, led the meeting.
Two officials told CNN that the UK is still debating whether or not to provide the systems, and that it would like to do so in collaboration with the US.
Children walk through houses damaged after combat in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in territory governed by the Donetsk People’s Republic.
The frustration on the Ukrainian side has intensified in recent weeks as a result of the US’ indecisiveness, because they feel that once the US deploys the systems, other nations would rapidly follow suit.
“We are working on it,” the Pentagon informed Ukraine just last week, according to one frustrated Ukrainian official, who added that Ukraine is requesting an update on the decision “every hour.”
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top military commander, stated Thursday that “we are in desperate need of weaponry that would allow us to combat the adversary over a long distance.” “And this cannot be postponed because the cost of postponement is measured in the lives of those who have defended the globe against [Russian fascism].”
When asked what his country’s most pressing needs are, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, “If you truly care about Ukraine, guns, weapons, and weapons again.”
“‘We’re working on it’ is my least favorite phrase; I despise it. ‘We got it,’ or ‘It’s not going to happen,’ is what I want to hear “He went on to say.
Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, who was part of a congressional delegation that visited Kyiv earlier this month, told CNN that the technologies might help Ukraine gain substantial momentum against Russia.
“To be honest with you, I think it might be a gamechanger,” Crow remarked, referring to both offensive and defensive approaches. He said that if MLRS systems were deployed in Ukraine, Russian conventional artillery, which has a range of around 50 kilometers, “would not approach near.” He stated of the Russians, “It would take away their siege techniques.”