President Biden announced a new batch of military aid bound for Ukraine. The package, worth around $700 million, includes the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that can accurately hit targets up to 190 miles. But in this case, the US will only be sending rockets that can hit targets up to 43 miles.
This comes after the White House continually flip-flopped on the decision to send rocket systems to Ukraine, likely because Russia might see this as an act of war, and Ukraine might use them to strike targets in mainland Russia. As SOFREP’s Guy McCardle points out in an earlier article, any missile system can hit targets inside Russia depending on its proximity to the border. Read his article here for more information about the flip-flopping from the White House.
“The people of Ukraine continue to inspire the world with their courage and resolve as they fight bravely to defend their country and their democracy against Russian aggression,” Biden said in a statement.
“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself.”
Biden announced his decision to provide sophisticated rocket systems to Ukraine in an opinion piece he wrote for The New York Times.
“Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”
This piece finally revealed that Ukraine would indeed be receiving the HIMARS after much of the usual back and forth we’ve been getting from the White House. As was said before, the US is only sending satellite-guided rockets that can hit targets up to 43 miles to 48 miles, packed with the same explosive power of a 500-pound bomb. The HIMARS can be armed with long-range rockets, but it seems that if the US did send these, it might be too tempting for the Ukrainians to resist hitting targets in Russia. To us, this seems like an appeasement to Putin and the Kremlin more than concern about what Ukraine might do with these long-range rockets. To Ukraine, the United States is the Goose that lays the Golden Egg, making it clear that using the rockets with 150-mile range to shoot into Russia would put the US in a very tight spot and would necessitate us cutting off all aid to them would probably be enough to prevent Ukraine from lobbing rockets into Russia. Doing so, would not win the war for Ukraine, while the US withdrawing military support would most certainly cause them to lose.
So far, the US is only sending 4 of the HIMARs units to Ukraine, so this will not dramatically shift the balance of military power suddenly in Ukraine, but their ability to fire precision-guided rockets with an accuracy within 15ft, would mean that Ukraine would get more bang for the buck out of each missile fired at Russian forces. Their relatively small size and great mobility will make them more survivable as well, able to fire their missiles in 45 seconds in order to “Shoot and Scoot” to another location before the Russians can fix their position and shoot back at them. That 44 miles range gives you some time to get out of there. After firing the driver of the HIMARs just has to put it in gear and drive away a couple of miles to reload very quickly and get set up to fire again. By contrast, firing the 144-mile range rockets would make the HIMARs all but invulnerable to counter-battery fire given the extra time that kind of range buys you.
The US has gradually expanded the arsenal of weapons it has provided the Ukrainian military, with the new package also including Javelin anti-tank missiles, tactical vehicles, and helicopters.
Biden approved sending the HIMARS under the condition that Kyiv would not use the system to attack targets inside Russian territory. This was to avoid further escalation of the conflict.
“The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
A senior Pentagon official disclosed Ukraine would receive four HIMARS from the US. They added it would take around three weeks of training before the Ukrainian Armed Forces could proficiently use the new system.
Ukraine initially requested for the Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS), such as the M270; however, Pentagon assessment deemed that the HIMARS was a better fit for the conditions in Ukraine.
“We don’t assess that they need systems that range out hundreds and hundreds of kilometers for the current fight,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said.
Here’s the complete list of equipment included with the latest $700 million:
- High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and ammunition;
- Five counter-artillery radars;
- Two air surveillance radars;
- 1,000 Javelins and 50 Command Launch Units;
- 6,000 anti-armor weapons;
- 15,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- Four Mi-17 helicopters;
- 15 tactical vehicles;
- Spare parts and equipment.
The United States has sent over $5.3 billion worth of advanced military equipment to Ukraine since the start of Putin’s “special military operation” on February 24, more than any other country in the world, and out donating entire Europe.
Stoking the Fire
Russia condemned the US’s move to provide Ukraine with advanced munitions and warned that such actions would increase the likelihood of a direct conflict between Washington and Moscow.
“We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov said that Moscow is not confident in the assurances that Kyiv will not use the new rocket systems to strike targets inside Russia. He noted the Kremlin has assessed the risk of such munitions being launched into Russian territory and is already taking appropriate measures against it.
He also mentioned that the Kremlin viewed the Biden administration’s move “extremely negatively,” saying that providing such equipment will not encourage Ukraine to resume peace talks.
Despite criticism from Russia, White House National Security Adviser, Jonathan Finer, said that Washington is convinced the HIMARS will meet the military needs of Ukraine in a defensive conflict.
“We are doing exactly what we said we would do,” Finer said. “Russia has brought this on itself by launching an invasion into a sovereign country from its territory.”
Biden bluntly mentioned that Washington does not seek to oust Putin, despite saying the Russian president “cannot remain in power.” In his opinion piece, the President offered a different, more diplomatic perspective.
“We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia,” he said. “As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow,” Biden wrote.
“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.”
President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘cannot remain in power,’ remarks a White House official said were meant to prepare the world's democracies for extended conflict over Ukraine, not back regime change in Russia https://t.co/JT49oUwU4T pic.twitter.com/y7TsdZuYLR
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 26, 2022
This is a stark difference from his previous statements; wherein he stated that Putin “cannot remain in power” during a 27-minute speech in Poland, suggesting that the US wanted a regime change in Russia.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he exclaimed. “God bless you all, and may God defend our freedom, and may God protect our troops,” the President said.