The Biden administration has agreed to provide Ukraine with a limited number of long-range ATACMS missiles, following a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky, people familiar with the matter said.

President Biden reversed his initial reluctance to provide the weapons, which Zelensky has repeatedly pressed for so his army can hit targets deeper in Russian-held territory. Biden informed Zelensky of the decision Thursday, when the Ukrainian leader was visiting Washington to make his case for more support, one of the people said.

APTOPIX Biden United States Ukraine

President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, in Washington. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

The White House, Pentagon, and State Department declined to comment. At a briefing Thursday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden to date “has determined that he would not provide ATACMS, but he has also not taken it off the table in the future.”

NBC News reported the U.S. decision earlier Friday.

Asked about the issue Friday, Zelensky said only that he’s confident the U.S. ultimately will send most of the weapons his government is seeking. A day earlier, he said he was optimistic the U.S. would provide long-range missiles but didn’t indicate when. “We don’t have another way out,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers have been calling for months for Biden to send ATACMS to Ukraine. There are several versions of the missiles, including both cluster munitions and regular warheads and range between 100 miles and 190 miles.


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Republican James Risch said in a statement to Bloomberg that “ATACMS have been on the list of weapons that could make a decisive difference as Ukraine fights and any further delay by the administration would be shameful.”

Administration officials have been wary of providing any ATACMS, or the Army Tactical Missile System, for fear that Ukraine would use the system to strike targets within Russia and provoke a broader conflict outside Ukraine. Officials also cited concerns about depleting U.S. supplies of the missiles that might be needed for conflicts elsewhere.

A decision to go ahead may clear the way for Germany to provide Ukraine with its Taurus cruise missiles, which have an even longer range. There was no immediate response from Berlin to the U.S. decision Friday.

At the moment, Kyiv has been using Storm Shadow missiles from the UK and French Scalp missiles against targets in occupied territory, but there have been reports that supplies of those may soon run short.

Biden’s latest military aid package for Ukraine, which totals $325 million, includes a second round of cluster munitions for 155-millimeter Howitzer cannons. The U.S. first agreed to send the controversial munitions in July.

Sending ATACMS would be only the latest case where the administration has backed off its initial resistance to providing more and more advanced weapons systems, including Abrams tanks and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. Administration officials have said the slow steps – which have often frustrated Ukraine – are aimed at preventing an escalation by Russia.

The administration is also allowing allies to send U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

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