Biden administration is leaning toward supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles

Ukraine Frontline Soldier (Genya Savilov / AFP - Getty Images) © Genya Savilov

MUNICH — After months of requests from Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is working toward providing Ukraine with powerful new long-range ballistic missiles, according to two U.S. officials.

Late last year, the U.S. began to supply Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, but so far it has provided only the older medium-range ATACMS. Now, the U.S. is leaning toward sending the longer-range version of the missile, the officials said, which would allow Ukraine to strike farther inside the Russian-held Crimean Peninsula.

But U.S. funding for arms shipments to Ukraine remains uncertain because of opposition from former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress. Last week the Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. But it’s not clear whether or when the GOP-controlled House will vote on the measure or whether it would survive the vote.

For months, pro-Trump Republicans have said they will approve U.S. military aid to Ukraine only if the Biden administration agrees to a package of GOP immigration and border security measures. Trump and his House and Senate allies this month rejected a bipartisan border security and immigration compromise negotiated by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

Defense officials told NBC News that the U.S. has a limited inventory of ATACMS and that it is not likely to send them to Ukraine without money to replenish U.S. stockpiles.

If Congress approves more funding for Ukraine, the U.S. could include the long-range ATACMS in one of the first packages of military aid paid for with that money, according to the two U.S. officials. The U.S. also has ammunition and artillery ready to send to Ukraine immediately if the funding is approved, the officials added.

Ukraine Frontline Soldier (Genya Savilov / AFP – Getty Images)© Genya Savilov

The officials did not rule out asking allies to provide the missiles to Ukraine, as well, and replenishing their ATACM stockpiles.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, a Defense Department spokesperson said: “Without a supplemental [funding bill], we do not currently have a security assistance package to give to Ukraine. At the same time, I won’t speculate on the contents of any future packages if a supplemental were to be passed. We will let you know if this changes and if we have a new package to announce.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spent much of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Munich on Saturday discussing Ukraine’s need for longer-range weapons.

“I just came here from a meeting with Secretary Blinken,” Kuleba told a small group of reporters in Munich on Saturday. “I spent a very good part of the time arguing in favor of ATACMS,” he said, explaining that Ukraine needs the version of the missile that can fly 300 kilometers, or more than 180 miles.

“There is only one way to destroy Russian capabilities in Ukraine. It’s to hit deep into the occupied territories, bypassing Russian radio electronic warfare and interceptors,” he said, referring to long-range ATACMS.

Kuleba called the systems “an important symbol” to Ukrainians. “If you want to hit behind the lines, disrupt their logistics and supplies, destroy their depots of ammunition, you can do it only with long-range missiles,” he said.

The Biden administration has resisted sending the long-range missiles over the past two years because officials worried Ukraine would use them to strike inside Crimea or Russia and cause Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the conflict. White House and Pentagon officials have expressed similar concerns about other weapons systems but have now decided to provide them to Ukraine.

On Saturday, Kuleba also described an urgent need for more European weapons and assistance for Ukraine, saying many people in Europe are “still reluctant to understand the threat.”

“When a citizen of Europe reads in the news that Ukraine retreated from Avdiivka, he should realize one simple fact: Russia has got a few kilometers closer to his own home,” Kuleba said. “Every advance Russia makes in Ukraine brings Russian weapons closer to the home of a middle-class European.”

Kuleba praised support from European allies but said they need to speed up production of weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.

“It took Europeans too much time to start ramping up or waking up or dusting off their defense industries,” he said. “We will pay with our lives throughout 2024 to give your defense industries time to ramp up production or new lines.”

This article was originally published on