Amid Ukraine’s requests for long-range rocket systems to help it defend against continued Russian advances, President Biden stated that it would not send Ukraine any rocket systems that could reach the Russian mainland, prompting Russia to threaten the US if it were to send rocket systems to Kyiv.

“We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” Biden said after arriving at the White House.

This comes after SOFREP reported that the Biden Administration was going to send either High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) or Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) to Ukraine. This would give Ukraine somewhat of an upper hand as the US-made systems can provide the punching power it needs to answer Russian shelling in multiple areas in eastern Ukraine, firing rockets at Russian targets with clear-cut accuracy and precision – something the Russian forces severely lack. We speculated that sending these systems would likely include some hard restrictions about intentionally or “accidentally” firing any of these missiles into Russia.

If the M270 MLRS is sent to Ukraine, it can hit targets as far as 20 miles (32 km) or 43.5 miles away (45 km). If the M142 HIMARS is sent, it can destroy targets up to 186 miles (300 km) away, giving Ukrainians an opportunity to give Russia a taste of its own medicine.

U.S. Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment are being loaded into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron as part of joint training at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Jan. 27, 2021 (Senior Airman Kristine Legate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M142_HIMARS_-_210127-F-PV484-1022.jpg
US Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment are being loaded into a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron as part of joint training at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Jan. 27, 2021 (Senior Airman Kristine Legate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The US was previously cautious about sending these weapons as it may be interpreted as an act of war by the Kremlin. Now, the shipment of the HIMARS and the MRLS remains in limbo, with no updates regarding the status donation so far. It’s also unknown what exactly Biden meant regarding his statements as he has been known to speak out his mind most of the time, with the White House walking back his statements afterward.

However, the White House did say that the donation of the MLRS was still on the table but has yet to make a final decision regarding the weaponry. It must be over concerns that these rocket systems may reach the Russian mainland, which would could form a pretext for further escalations by Russia, which could claim they are unable to tell the difference on radar between an MLRS artillery rocket and a short-range nuclear missile fired by the US or NATO.

“MLRS is under consideration, but nothing is on the table with long-range strike capabilities,” a senior US official said last Monday.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby also told reporters that they were “still working through what the next package is going to look like” and that he would not get ahead of decisions that have not been made yet. However, he did reaffirm the US’ commitment to helping Ukraine.

“And our goal from the very beginning has been to try to help them in the fight that they’re in today.”

In response to the news of the Biden Administration potentially sending rocket systems to Ukraine, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who now sits as Deputy Chair of the Security Council of Russia, did not mince any words and directly threatened the US with a retaliation.

“Biden’s stated, the US won’t provide Ukraine with the missile systems able to hit Russia. It’s reasonable,” Medvedev stated.

“In the case of attack against our cities, Russia would strike the centers where these criminal decisions are made. Some of them aren’t in Kiev. What comes next is obvious,” he added, implying that Russia would directly strike the source of the weapons donations.

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Calls for the Western MLRS and HIMARS were further amplified when the Russians used their TOS-1A to shell Ukrainian positions in Novomykhailivka, Donetsk region. Videos of the thermobaric weapon wreaking havoc on Ukrainian positions surfaced online, showing the devastation the weapon can bring to Ukrainian troops.

“This is what the largest and most horrific war of the 21st century looks like. Ukraine is ready to strike back,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. “To do this, we need NATO-style MLRS. Immediately.”

The weapon is rightfully feared as these thermobaric weapons are very deadly to humans. The videos may show simple blasts, but those videos do not do the thermobaric weapons justice. These missiles (also known as vacuum bombs) are known to release fuel in the air, with a second charge blowing it up to create a large fireball that can engulf areas, most effective when they’re detonated in an enclosed area. This would be particularly devastating when the thermobaric weapons are dropped in trenches. The resulting heat, around 3,632 Fahrenheit to 6,332 Fahrenheit, will burn humans alive.

The strong and high pressure created by the blast can also destroy internal organs, rip lung tissue and kill humans from the inside due to internal bleeding. The Russians would not hesitate to use these on Ukrainian forces as they get increasingly desperate to obtain some form of success in Ukraine.

While Russian government officials have certainly been blatant about their aggression toward the West and the United States, American officials have been more reserved toward its rhetoric, showing that it does not want an escalation with Russia. While this gives Russia something of an advantage in shaping US policy towards Ukraine and these weapons systems, what we have seen of the Russian military in the last several months indicates that Putin and Kremlin have more to fear from direct NATO involvement than the US does.