Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, visited Ukraine on Tuesday and said he sensed a shift in Washington that could lead to arming Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets and longer-range missiles.
According to Reuters, McCaul said the Biden administration was still split on “how fast and what weapons” to send to Ukraine. “But I’m seeing increasing momentum towards getting the artillery and the planes in,” he told reporters in Kyiv. “And in any event, we can start training the pilots right now, so they’re ready.”
Ukraine has been seeking the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), missiles that can be fired from the HIMARS rocket systems and have a range of up to 190 miles. The current munitions Ukraine is using can hit targets 50 miles away. The US recently announced it will send Ukraine Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), which have a range of about 94 miles, but they could take months or years to be delivered.
McCaul visited Kyiv just one day after President Biden was in the city. McCaul told Fox News that the president’s visit wasn’t enough to support the Ukrainians. “It’s good President Biden visited Ukraine, but a photo op isn’t enough. He needs to get Ukraine the weapons they need to win now, especially ATACMS,” he said.
McCaul wants the US to give Ukraine the ability to strike targets in Crimea, operations that would risk a significant escalation of the war, as even Secretary of State Antony Blinken recognized the peninsula is a “red line” for Moscow. Despite the risk of escalation, Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, said last week that the US supports Ukrainian attacks on Crimea.
Sending longer-range weapons risks a significant escalation even if they’re not used to hit Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech on Tuesday that the “longer the range of the Western systems being brought to Ukraine, the farther away from our borders we will be forced to push the threat.”