WASHINGTON — The United States will send Ukraine advanced missile systems and ammunition as part of a new $700 million package of military equipment designed to help Ukrainians fight back against Russia’s invasion of their country, President Biden and officials from the United States said. the White House Tuesday.
Mr. Biden announced his decision to provide the missile systems, which can precisely target an enemy nearly 80 miles away, in an Op-Ed published online Tuesday evening by The New York Times. He said the delivery of the advanced weapons would enable Ukraine “to fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table”.
But a senior government official later said the weapons system — the most advanced delivered to Ukrainians to date — was promised only after direct assurances from Ukrainian leaders that they would not use it against targets on Russian soil.
As the war progressed, the Biden administration has gradually expanded the arsenal of weapons it has supplied to the Ukrainians, and the latest package will also include Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery shells, helicopters and tactical vehicles. But top officials are concerned about provoking a wider war with Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin by supplying equipment that will allow Ukraine to strike deep into his country.
That has proved a tricky line for the president and his advisers since Mr. Putin sent his troops to Ukraine nearly 100 days ago.
In Tuesday’s article, Mr. Biden described his administration’s decision to support Ukraine in its efforts to fend off Russian invaders. But Mr Biden also offered specific assurances to Mr Putin that the United States has no intention of provoking wider conflict or the use of weapons of mass destruction.
“We currently see no indication that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is in itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible,” Biden wrote. “Let me be clear: any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict, on any scale, would be completely unacceptable to us and the rest of the world and would have dire consequences.”
Mr Biden bluntly stated in his article that he was not trying to overthrow Mr Putin, despite his superficial remarks during a speech in Poland earlier this year when he said the Russian president “cannot stay in power”. On Tuesday, Mr. Biden presented a different position.
“We are not aiming for a war between NATO and Russia,” he said. “As much as I disagree with Mr Putin and find his actions disgraceful, the United States will not try to bring about his impeachment in Moscow. As long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly involved in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine, or by attacking Russian troops.”
Biden’s government has already sent Ukraine about $5 billion worth of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and other military equipment as the European country seeks to repel the Russian invasion.
Government officials said the advanced missiles and other equipment will be formally announced on Wednesday, along with a spare parts package that will allow Ukrainians to maintain the artillery equipment supplied.
Officials said on Tuesday that Ukraine will receive the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, a satellite-guided precision weapon that has about the same explosive power as a 500-pound bomb dropped from the sky.
The system can hit targets as far as 48 miles away, a senior official told reporters Tuesday evening, well beyond the range of the artillery Ukraine now uses. According to a report published in June by the Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon has spent about $5.4 billion since 1998 to buy more than 42,000 such missiles.
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
To the ground. Fighting raged in Sievierodonetsk, the last city in the Luhansk region to remain outside Russian control since the war effort shifted to the east of the country. Although most of the city’s civilian population has fled in recent weeks, 12,000 people, many of them elderly, are said to be trapped there in appalling conditions.
The system could be equipped with even longer-range missiles, which can fly nearly 200 miles before hitting a target, officials said Tuesday. But Mr Biden decided not to supply those missiles to Ukraine, a senior government official said.
Mr Biden had told reporters on Monday that “we will not send missile systems to Ukraine that can attack Russia.”
A senior government official acknowledged that even the missiles with a 48-mile limit could be used to strike targets within Russia if the system is brought to the Ukraine-Russia border. But the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the Ukrainian government had assured the United States that this would not happen, and that the government was satisfied with the guarantees.
Biden made clear in his Op-Ed on Tuesday that it was important for the United States and other countries to supply Ukraine with more advanced weapons as the Russian military makes gains in the eastern part of the country.
“Assisting Ukraine in its hour of need is not just the right thing to do,” he wrote. “It is in our vital national interest to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make it clear that may not be right.”
The tone of the article by Mr. Biden said he thought Americans should prepare for a long war. He said he wrote the article to clarify the goals of the United States “as the war continues”.
Even as he pledged continued military support to Ukraine, Mr Biden said he continued to hope the countries could find a diplomatic end to the conflict.
“Ukraine’s talks with Russia have not stalled because Ukraine has turned its back on diplomacy,” he wrote. “They are stuck because Russia continues to wage war to take over as much of Ukraine as possible. The United States will continue to work to strengthen Ukraine and support its efforts to end the conflict through negotiations.”
John Ismay reporting contributed.