The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden made the decision to supply ATACMS long-range rockets to Ukraine before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington DC, but decided not to announce it publicly, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.
The decision was made to prevent the Russians from moving their supply lines away from the front. Initially, a small number of the missiles will be sent to Ukraine in the near future, and more could come later.
Washington will send a version of the missile with cluster bomb warheads, rather than a high-explosive one warhead.
U.S. ATACMS rockets have an advantage over the UK’s Storm Shadow and French SCALP-E long-range cruise missiles, as they can be launched from HIMARS launchers, rather than from Ukraine’s outdated Soviet-era Ukrainian fighter jets.
During his meeting with Zelenskyy on Sept. 21, Biden promised to transfer “a small number” of ATACMS rockets to Kyiv, NBC News reported on Sept. 22, citing three U.S. officials and a congressional source.
The Ukrainian government has been working hard to facilitate the transfer of ATACMS long-range rockets to Kyiv, Zelenskyy told Ukrainian journalists in Washington.
“We’ve been working on this issue for a very long time, and very hard,” the Ukrainian leader said. “And (the result) will be the same as with the F-16. We understand how it will be. And the moment will come when we will see it all.”
Biden also announced new $325 million military aid package for Ukraine after his meeting with Zelenskyy. The package includes a second batch of 155mm cluster munitions, more short-range Avenger air-defense systems that use Stinger missiles, TOW and AT4 anti-tank systems, missiles for HIMARS systems, Javelin anti-tank missiles, and other equipment.
According to sources cited by the U.S. newspaper the Wall Street Journal, the White House is reportedly reconsidering its plans to provide ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. This reconsideration may be influenced by concerns within the Pentagon regarding the potential depletion of U.S. missile stocks.
Meanwhile the head of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview that he believes that the supply of even 100 ATACMS rockets would not change the course of the war.