The Biden administration is preparing to upgrade the kind of weapons offered to Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems that are now the top request from Ukrainian officials.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials have pleaded in recent weeks for the United States and its allies to provide the Multiple Launch Rocket System or MLRS. The US-made weapon systems can fire a barrage of rockets much farther than any of the systems Ukraine already has by hundreds of kilometers, which the Ukrainians say could be a gamechanger in their war against Russia.
Another rocket system Ukraine has asked for is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, a lighter-wheeled system capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as MLRS.
Zelensky says 👇🏻
Victory for Ukraine is restoring control of all territories, including eastern Donbas and Crimea.
Yet, it’s impossible to achieve without heavy losses, Ukraine won’t go that way.
Minimum goal, on the battlefield, is to regain all territory lost since Feb. 24.
— Oleksiy Sorokin (@mrsorokaa) May 28, 2022
Amid concerns raised within the National Security Council that Ukraine could use the new weapons to carry out offensive attacks inside Russia, the Biden administration initially wavered over whether to send the systems. President Joe Biden was right to be concerned, as the Russians have already warned that the United States will “cross a red line” if it supplies the systems to Ukraine.
As part of the regular dialogue, I had another phone conversation with @BorisJohnson. We talked about strengthening defense support for 🇺🇦, intensifying work on security guarantees, supplying fuel to Ukraine. We must work together to prevent a food crisis and unblock 🇺🇦 ports.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 28, 2022
On Friday, the Pentagon’s outgoing press secretary John Kirby suggested a final decision on the MLRS hadn’t been reached yet. “Certainly we’re mindful and aware of Ukrainian asks, privately and publicly, for what is known as a multiple launch rocket system. And I won’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet,” Kirby told reporters during a briefing.
Russians now using massive thermobarics to destroy villages in eastern Ukraine. To my friends in the US government: Please, rush those US MLRS systems to Ukraine – the battle in Donbas is increasingly nasty. M777 good, but not enough!
— Wes Clark (@GeneralClark) May 28, 2022
Another major concern inside the Biden administration had been whether the US could afford to give away so many high-end weapons drawn from the military’s stockpiles. When asked whether the US would provide the systems, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wouldn’t say. “I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process of resourcing requirements,” he told reporters.