US tells Ukraine it won’t send long-range missiles because it has too few missiles

The Pentagon’s stockpile assessment is informed in part by how many weapons and ammunition planners think they might need to confront the enemy. These plans have not been significantly revised since the war in Ukraine began, and the accounts for what US reserves might need to face a weakened Russia, or the fact that Ukraine is essentially fighting that war right now, have not been revised.

One reason the military is hesitant to send ATACMS is its desire to maintain a certain level of weapons in the U.S. stockpile, said one U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military calculations.

“With any package, we always consider our readiness and our own stocks when providing Ukraine with what it needs on the battlefield,” a senior DoD official said. “There are other ways to provide Ukraine with the capabilities it needs to strike targets.”

Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s top policy official for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said in a recent interview that “all the capabilities that we provide, you’re talking about, you know, HIMARS or you’re talking about a particular type. Missiles or munitions, we’re always looking at the availability of our stockpile.” Looking at, we look at production considerations and so that’s true of every capability, and we make decisions accordingly.”

Lockheed Martin has built nearly 4,000 ATACMS in various configurations over the past two decades. Some of these missiles have been sold to allied nations, who have purchased the missiles for their own multiple rocket launcher systems. About 600 US troops fired in combat during the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War.

Kiev is considering seeking Washington’s approval to buy ATACMS from an ally that operates the weapon using military funding from the United States, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. ATACMS users include South Korea, Poland, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Qatar and Bahrain.

The other problem with sending ATACMS — that it’s too aggressive a move by Biden’s team — remains. But Ukrainian officials have heard such arguments about other weapons before, only for the Biden administration to go the other way and send artillery, missile defenses and tanks.

Despite Washington’s reservations, Ukraine continues to push for more advanced weapons, with ATACMS usually at the top of the list.

“Ukraine needs long-range missiles,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a January video address to the Ukrainian people, “to deny the occupier the opportunity to place its missile launchers far from the front lines and destroy Ukrainian cities.”

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair General Mark Milley will host the ninth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, a monthly gathering of 50 countries to discuss what new military aid they can offer Ukraine. Kiev is planning a spring and summer offensive to counter Russia’s offensive in the Donbass and Moscow’s drone and missile campaign against civilian targets.

A person close to the Ukrainian government said Kiev does not expect any new weapons in the aid package that Austin will announce this week. Drawdowns from existing stocks and contracts for new weapons will not include ATACMS or F-16 fighters, but will focus on ammunition, munitions, air defense and spare parts.

Regardless of the U.S. package — and other commitments from partner countries — Ukraine is looking for more secrecy when those governments announce that aid.

Officials in Kiev are worried that one of the more detailed lists coming out of Washington and elsewhere could risk providing too much information to their Russian adversaries, who could prepare defenses or countermeasures if they knew what they would face, according to one of them. . The people.

Zelensky pointed to these growing concerns in Brussels on Thursday when he visited EU leaders to talk about what is needed this year and beyond.

Kicking off a successful visit to London where he met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who promised to train Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO fighter jets, Zelensky said, “We are moving towards a solution on long-range missiles and training our pilots. … There are also certain agreements which are not universal but positive. When these items happen, our state will know it, but I don’t want to prepare the Russian Federation.”

The US and allies have long maintained some element of mystery about some of the capabilities they have sent to Ukraine, cloaking some military assistance under vague catchall categories such as rocket artillery or drones that could mean any number of things.

But the United States has done more than most countries to announce the amount and nature of its proposed aid and defense deals with Ukraine, as the Biden administration tries to show its commitment to Kiev.

Others, such as Finland, Sweden, Spain and Canada, are more vague, and generally refuse to list much of the specific equipment, weapons and ammunition they supply.

The desire for more secrecy could be seen as a tough request for some countries eager to show how deep their support for Ukraine is, especially when that support could also mean American military funding for stock replacements in later years. At Thursday’s EU summit, Zelenskiy formally asked Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Hager to transfer some of his country’s MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

On Friday, Hager said he was ready to begin discussing a possible transfer. “The president of Ukraine asked me to supply MiGs. Now, since this official request has arrived, the negotiation process can begin,” Hager said.