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Financial Times: Biden delayed ATACMS announcement to avoid tipping off Russia

In the near future, Washington will send small numbers of the long-range missile armed with cluster munitions rather than a single warhead
An ATACMS being launched by an M270. Photo;
Financial Times: Biden delayed ATACMS announcement to avoid tipping off Russia

The White House had approved the decision to send long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles capable of striking targets 300 km away to Ukraine earlier, but avoided publicly saying this to avoid alerting Russia, sources told Financial Times. Ultimately, the US finally gave in to Ukrainian requests because its concerns over domestic stockpiles were alleviated, the sources said.

“The decision was made before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the US this week, but the Biden administration chose not to announce it publicly. One person said this was to avoid tipping off the Russians, prompting them to move their supply lines further back from the frontline,” reported the Financial Times.

Rumors regarding ATACMS delivery began to circulate ahead of Zelenskyy’s trip to the USA, but the first reports of the US finally heeding to months of Ukrainian requests came yesterday, after Zelenskyy’s meeting with Biden.

US will, in fact, supply long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine

The missiles will be sent in small numbers initially and be equipped with cluster munitions rather than unitary warheads. “Sending the cluster bomblet kind helped to ameliorate some of the officials’ concerns because they would not deplete stocks of the missiles with unitary warheads,” sources told the FT.

The US had previously resisted providing ATACMS to Ukraine over concerns about escalating the conflict and depleting its own stockpile. However, officials reportedly became more comfortable with the decision after assurances of adequate supply.

“On Thursday US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden was ‘constantly speaking both to his own military and to his counterparts in Europe and to the Ukrainians themselves’ about battlefield needs ‘and then what the United States can provide while also ensuring that we are able to provide for our own deterrence and defence needs’,” reported the Financial Times.

The Biden administration has steadily increased military aid to Ukraine while balancing concerns over escalation and US stockpiles. It recently sent 155mm cluster munitions when it became clear that stockpiles of conventional 155mm artillery rounds, drastically needed by Ukraine, were running low.

The ATACMS decision reflects “officials becoming comfortable enough to send them,” according to sources of the Financial Times.

ATACMS will allow Ukraine to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory. Ukraine has already been using long-range missiles. The British Storm Shadow and analogous French Scalp cruise missiles (range: 250 km), the supply of which began in May and July 2023 respectively, have been employed in strikes on Russian warships and crucial bridges. As well, Ukraine has employed its domestic Neptune missiles in attacks on Crimea.

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