(Antiwar) — The Pentagon announced Wednesday a new $700 million weapons package for Ukraine that includes advanced rocket systems with a range of up to 50 miles, marking a significant escalation in US military aid to Kyiv.
The US will be shipping Ukraine High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS. With strike capabilities of up to 50 miles, it means Russian territory could potentially be in range, but US officials insisted in comments to the media that the rockets won’t be used to hit targets inside Russia.
A senior administration official told The New York Times that the US had received “assurances” from Ukrainian leaders that the HIMARS won’t be used against Russian territory. Russian officials have previously warned that providing Ukraine with long-range weapons that can hit Russia would be a step toward “unacceptable escalation.”
Responding to Wednesday’s announcement, the Kremlin said the US was “adding fuel to the fire” by sending the rockets. “The United States pursues the course towards fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
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President Biden announced his intention to give Ukraine advanced rockets in an op-ed published by The New York Times on Tuesday. “I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine,” he wrote.
Ukraine will receive other weapons as part of the $700 million package. According to the Pentagon, it includes:
- 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 weapons package was pulled from the $40 billion in new Ukraine aid President Biden recently signed into law. The $40 billion includes $11 billion in presidential drawdown authority, which allows Biden to send weapons to Ukraine from the US military’s stockpiles.