US officials are “breathing a quiet sigh of relief” over London’s plans to provide Ukraine with longer-range missiles, POLITICO reported on Tuesday.
A final decision hasn’t been made, but Britain is preparing to send Kyiv missiles with a strike capability of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles), which is about the same range as the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) Ukraine has been requesting from the US.
The missiles the UK is expected to provide are Storm Shadows, which are air fired and could be used by Ukraine’s Soviet-era fighter jets. The US-made ATACMS are munitions that can be fired by the HIMARS rocket systems the US has provided Kyiv.
US officials who spoke with POLITICO said they hoped the UK providing such missiles would silence hawks in Washington who have been pushing the Biden administration to send the ATACMS. The officials said the US still would not provide ATACMS if the British went ahead with their plan.
US military officials have said they can’t send ATACMS to Ukraine because there are not enough in Pentagon stockpiles. There is also the risk of escalation as longer-range missiles could be used to target Russian territory.
According to POLITICO, the UK is seeking assurances that Ukraine wouldn’t use the missiles to hit targets inside Russia. But Ukraine and its Western backers don’t consider Crimea to be Russian territory, and an attack on the peninsula could be just as escalatory as hitting the Russian mainland.