Politico reported Friday that the Biden administration is leaning towards giving Ukraine advanced long-range rocket systems, which would mark a significant escalation in US military aid to Kyiv.
Ukraine has pleaded with the US to send the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Both systems might be included in the next weapons package for Ukraine that could be announced next week, but it hasn’t yet been approved by President Biden or Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Certain munitions fired by the MLRS systems could reach ranges of 190 miles, but a US official said those types of long-range munitions won’t be sent to Ukraine. Instead, Ukraine would likely receive systems that can launch munitions between 20-45 miles, which would still make it the longest-range weapons provided to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have been pleading with the US to send the MLRS and HIMARS for months, but earlier reports said Biden was hesitant to give Ukraine the rocket systems over concerns they could be used to hit targets inside Russia, which would risk prolonging the war and provoking Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday warned the West against giving Ukraine weapons that could hit Russian territory, calling it a “serious step towards unacceptable escalation.”
The next weapons package for Ukraine will come out of the new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine President Biden recently signed into law. It includes $11 billion in presidential drawdown authority, which gives Biden the power to ship weapons to Ukraine directly from the Pentagon’s stockpiles.
When asked about the contents of the next weapons package on Friday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby wouldn’t share details, and just said the US is in close contact with the Ukrainian government. “I won’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet, but we are in constant communication with them,” he said.