President Biden faces growing pressure to approve longer-range missiles and fighter jets for Kiev
Members of Congress have urged US President Joe Biden to provide even more advanced weaponry to Ukraine, including longer-range missiles that the White House previously warned could trigger World War III.
Kiev must be given Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to strike distant targets in Russia's supply lines, nine lawmakers said in a letter to Biden on Thursday. The bipartisan group, led by Colorado Democrat Jason Crow, dismissed concerns that such weapons could escalate the conflict or leave US missile supplies too depleted.
"We also understand the administration's stated desire to maintain US stockpiles for future fights, but Ukraine is currently on the front lines in a fight for freedom in a war with immediate and long-term US national security implications," the lawmakers said. "The fight for global peace and security is playing out in Ukraine, and we believe this merits a drawdown from our existing stocks of this important capability."
ATACMS missiles can strike targets as far as 300 kilometers (190 miles) away. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last July that the Biden administration wouldn't send such long-range missiles to Ukraine because such a precedent could provoke a wider conflict if used to attack targets in Russian territory.
However, the UK has since supplied Kiev with an unspecified number of its own Storm Shadow long-range missiles, a decision that was apparently run by Washington first. While Britain has consistently pushed its allies to supply Kiev with heavier armaments, nothing happens without the US approval, NBC News reported last week.
Biden's professed reluctance to take other potentially escalatory steps has crumbled as the conflict drags on. Last month, he agreed to allow US allies to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, while in January he approved plans to send M1 Abrams tanks to Kiev.
Those concessions weren't enough for the representatives behind Thursday's letter. In addition to pushing for ATACMS missiles, they called for Biden to give more tanks and fighter jets to Ukraine, as well as additional Patriot air-defense systems.
"Helping Ukraine fight and win is a US national security imperative and signals to the world that thee US will stand by our fellow democracies," the nine lawmakers said. They called on Biden to do everything in his power, including using his authority under the Defense Production Act to accelerate weapons output, to give Ukrainian troops everything they need to mount a counteroffensive.
Kiev's long-heralded attack apparently began on Sunday, and Biden said on Thursday that the US and its Western allies had already done everything they could to support the operation.
According to CNN, the Ukrainian military has met with "greater than expected resistance" from Russian forces. Ukraine has lost more than 4,000 troops and dozens of tanks and armored vehicles in its failed attacks this week, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.