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Biden agrees to send long-range missiles to Ukraine

Biden agrees to send long-range missiles to Ukraine

by host

The news is a major win for Zelenskyy and officials in Kyiv, who have long sought the missiles. ATACMS have a range of 45 to 190 miles and Ukrainians have long argued that they are crucial to striking deep behind entrenched Russian positions along a 600-mile front line.

NBC first reported the news that the missiles had been approved.

Biden administration officials still insist that ATACMS won’t be a magic bullet. The 18-month war is still an artillery battle and advances are measured in feet, not miles. Clearing mines occupies soldiers’ time, stifling any swift maneuvers to retake territory. The newly supplied missiles will help Ukraine’s cause, then, but they won’t prove a game-changing weapon, U.S. officials assert.

Depending on when the missiles arrive, they will add to the pressure that Ukraine has been putting on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea in recent weeks. On Friday, Ukraine used long-range missiles to hit the fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, after previously hitting drydocks holding a Russian warship and a submarine.

Complicating matters is that U.S. and European military officials estimate Ukraine has only another few weeks left to achieve key objectives in the counteroffensive before winter weather sets in and makes the fighting more difficult.

“There’s still a reasonable amount of time, probably about 30 to 45 days’ worth of fighting weather left,” Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley said recently. “Then the rains will come in; it will become very muddy, and it will be very difficult to maneuver.”

The decision to send ATACMS comes as the United Kingdom and France are wavering on whether they’ll continue to deliver long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine. London and Paris have sent their Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles, which reach roughly 150 miles, respectively.

However, France will halt shipments of the SCALPs in the near term because they are needed for Paris’ own coffers, said Gen. Stéphane Mille, chief of staff of France’s air and space force, in a Monday briefing.

Mille also hinted that Paris is rethinking how much longer it can continue to send significant amounts of its own weapons to Ukraine.

“After two years we need now to have another discussion, because we cannot give, give, give and see our systems going down for Ukraine,” he said.

Kyiv has also been pushing Germany to send its own Taurus cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 300 miles, but Berlin has so far refrained from doing so.

The Biden administration weighed the decision to send ATACMS for weeks. Earlier in September, Kyiv pressured Washington to make a call ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, where Zelenskyy hoped to celebrate the move with Biden. U.S. officials said that was too tight a timeline, though, noting that a decision had yet to reach Biden’s desk.

But there was movement behind the scenes. The week before the UNGA, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told congressional leaders that Biden might greenlight a variant of the weapon, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

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