President Joe Biden formally announced a new $700 million security package for Ukraine on Wednesday after Russia warned it was “putting fuel on the fire” by including intermediate-range missile systems.
“This new package will equip them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield ammunition, to defend their territory from Russian advances,” Biden said in a statement.
The latest round of military aid comes as the Pentagon snapped back to the Kremlin’s flak, saying Russia hadn’t been able to vote on US aid and describing the invasion of Moscow as “out of plan”.
In addition to the missile system, support also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles and more. Ukraine has promised the US it will not fire the guns into Russian territory.
But the Kremlin fired back, accusing Washington of provocative behavior.
“We believe that the United States is intentionally and carefully adding fuel to the fire,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Asked how Russia would react if Ukraine used US-supplied missiles to hit Russian territory, Peskov replied: “Let’s not talk about worst-case scenarios.”
He said Moscow does not trust Ukraine’s assurances that the weapons would not reach Russian soil.
The United States is sending four HIMARS missile systems to Ukraine as part of the latest round of military aid
Undersecretary for Defense Policy Colin Kahl said Russia was “far off plan” with its invasion, which began just over three months ago.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Defense Policy Colin Kahl said Russia was “far off plan” with its invasion, which began just over three months ago.
“The Russians didn’t do particularly well. They are certainly outside of the plan. They expected, you know, that they would take over the country in a few days. In the beginning maybe 30 days. They’re way off plan,” he said at Wednesday’s Pentagon press briefing.
Biden said Monday the US would not send Ukraine “missile systems capable of attacking Russia.”
But the new military package includes medium-range missiles that can fly about 45 miles. These could, of course, be fired into Russia if they get close enough to the border.
Kahl said the US would send four HIMARS to Ukraine and the training would last about three weeks.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, HIMARS for short, is mounted on a truck and can transport a container with six rockets. In addition to the medium-range missile, it can fire longer-range missiles, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of about 190 miles. But US officials said that was not part of the plan.
Kahl said the Ukrainian government had assured the United States that the missiles would not be fired into Russian territory but would instead be used to counter Russian forces in the Donbass region.
“The formal assurance is that they will not use these systems to attack Russian territory,” Kahl said. “We trust that Ukrainians will honor these assurances.”
“Ukraine is defending their territory, everything they do on Ukraine’s territory is defensive,” he noted.
Ukrainian officials have asked for longer-range missile systems, capable of launching a barrage of missiles hundreds of kilometers away, in hopes of turning the tide of the war. They wanted a lot more than four.
Kahl also brushed off the Russian pushback on the new aid.
“Russia has no veto on what we send to Ukrainians,” he said. “It was not the Ukrainians who started this war, but the Russians. The Ukrainians did not provoke this war, this war was not provoked. The Russians can end this conflict at any time. If they fear an escalation, all it takes is one man to say stop.”
The new support comes as Russian troops neared taking control of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. The city is in the Donbass region on the border with Russia, and capturing it would make Moscow prevent the conquest of eastern Ukraine.
And a presenter on Russian state television said World War III had already begun.
“In the sense that a real war has started, World War III. We are forced to demilitarize not only Ukraine, but NATO as a whole,” said Olga Skabeeva, presenter of Russian state television.
President Biden has repeatedly said he does not want the Ukraine conflict to escalate into a third world war.
The United States has pledged $5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Biden administration began, including about $4.5 billion since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
The US is sending the missiles to Ukraine while Russia is pushing to take control of the Dunbas region
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Biden about sending some of Britain’s advanced missile systems to Ukraine, Politico reported.
Johnson spoke to Biden Wednesday morning about the transfer of the US-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. Then on Thursday morning British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken spoke.
The US must officially approve the move due to export regulations.
The M270 can hit targets about 50 miles away.