Officials in Washington previously argued that sending these long-range weapons to Kiev could provoke “a third world war”
The US will likely provide Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles after finding a surplus in the Pentagon’s inventory, two anonymous officials told ABC News on Friday. Kiev has been demanding these missiles for more than a year, but the US has thus far held off for fear of instigating a wider conflict with Russia.
“They are coming,” one of the officials told ABC, while the other said that their transfer was still “on the table,” and would be subject to the final approval of US President Joe Biden.
Utilized by American forces in the Gulf and Iraq Wars, the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System has a range of up to 300 kilometers (190 miles) and can be fired from the M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS platforms, which the US and UK have already sent to Ukraine.
The ATACMS’ range would allow Ukrainian forces to strike targets deeper behind Russia’s borders, including in Crimea. For this reason, the US has turned down Ukrainian requests for the missiles since last year, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan telling reporters last July that “while a key goal of the United States is to… support and defend Ukraine, another key goal is to ensure that we do not end up in a circumstance where we are heading down the road towards a third world war.”
White House and Pentagon officials also claimed that the US had too few of the missiles in its stockpiles to spare.
However, both officials told ABC News that “the US has found it has more ATACMS in its inventory than originally assessed,” in the network’s words. ABC described this discovery as “surprising.” While the quantity and condition of these missiles is unclear, the White House has also reportedly accepted their use to target Crimea.
“I think specific targets in Crimea would be command and control, logistics hubs – especially ammunition facilities – and air bases,” former CIA officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mick Mulroy told ABC.
However, Kiev has also used Western weapons to strike civilian targets in Crimea, including several bridges hit by British Storm Shadow cruise missiles this summer. The larger Crimean Bridge – which links the peninsula with the Russian mainland – has also been struck with a truck bomb and naval drones, with both attacks killing a combined five civilians.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that the West’s deliveries of more advanced weaponry to Ukraine could provoke a major escalation of hostilities. “Anything could happen. Nothing is ruled out amid such an intense proxy-standoff between NATO and Russia,” Moscow’s deputy envoy to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said on Friday.
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