US preps to send long-range missile systems to Ukraine

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US preps to send long-range missile systems to Ukraine

The White House is preparing to dispatch long-range rocket systems to Ukraine as part of a fresh package of military and other aid that could be announced as soon as next week, according to a new report. 

The Biden administration has previously been reluctant to send the advanced weaponry out of concern that Kyiv’s forces could use them to strike targets inside Russia.

That worry was discussed among deputy Cabinet members during two national security policy meetings at the White House last week, CNN reported, citing multiple officials.

While the US has sent tens of billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine since the brutal Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, top officials in Kyiv — including President Volodymyr Zelensky — have urged the US and other Western nations to do more, in part by providing so-called Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). 

Ukrainian officials have also reportedly requested High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), as Russian troops continue to pound their western neighbor. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed sending Ukraine those systems, telling Bloomberg on Friday that it “would enable them to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery, and that’s where the world needs to go down.” 

President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the US and other Western nations to do more, in part by providing so-called Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). 
President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the US and other Western nations to do more, in part by providing so-called Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). 
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images
The administration has declined to approve military aid to Ukraine before – most notably Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets.
The administration has previously declined to approve military aid to Ukraine.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GettyImages

Both the MLRS and HIMARS can launch some missiles as far as 186 miles, and CNN reported concern remains among US officials about how the Ukrainians would use the weapons. Other concerns include whether Russia will view provision of the weaponry as an unacceptable provocation by the West, as well as whether the US can spare the systems from its own military reserves.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declined to confirm the status of the Ukrainian request this week, telling reporters on Monday, “I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process of sourcing requirements.” 

If the US moves forward with an additional security and military assistance package next week, it would come only two weeks after President Biden signed off on $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.

If the administration ultimately decides to not send the long-range systems, the US could provide Ukraine with shorter-range systems.
If the administration ultimately decides not to send the long-range systems, the US could provide Ukraine with shorter-range systems.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GettyImages
The Biden administration has previously been reluctant to send the advanced weaponry out of concern that Kyiv's forces could use them to strike targets inside Russia.
The Biden administration has previously been reluctant to send the advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

The administration has declined to approve military aid to Ukraine before – most notably Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets that would have been transferred to Ukraine from Poland via Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Despite calls from Zelensky and US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to go ahead with the deal, Biden ultimately decided against providing the planes — saying in March that such action could cause “World War III.”

In April, the Ukrainian president blasted Biden over his reluctance to send more lethal weaponry.

US soldiers gather next to US Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) during a live fire training exercise.
US soldiers gather next to US Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) during a live fire training exercise.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GettyImages

“We don’t want to receive a million of quality bulletproof vests, or some special brand helmets,” Zelensky said.

“Just give us missiles. Give us airplanes. You cannot give us F-18 or F-19 or whatever you have — give us the old Soviet planes. That’s all. Give them into my hands. Give me something to defend my country with.”

If the administration ultimately decides to not send the long-range systems, the US could provide Ukraine with shorter-range systems, sources told CNN, noting that it would not take long to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

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