The US will supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems to "help it strike enemy forces more precisely from a longer distance," per the BBC. Ukrainian officials have been begging for longer-range weapons to counter Russian firepower, which has pummeled cities and Ukrainian military positions in the Donbas region for weeks. In a New York Times essay published Tuesday, President Biden said the weaponry will help Ukraine defend itself and strengthen its hand at the negotiating table. Biden also sent assurances to the Russians, writing, "We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia."
The announcement comes as critics have piled on in recent weeks, accusing the Biden administration and NATO of "mollycoddling" Russia. Per the BBC, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday accused the US of "directly and intentionally adding fuel to the fire." The Washington Post reports that shortly after Biden's essay was published, Russia's Defense Ministry announced exercises involving Moscow's strategic missile forces responsible for "nuclear deterrence of possible aggression." According to Russian military doctrine, the use of nuclear force is justified "if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons."
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) that the US will send can deliver satellite-guided munitions nearly 45 miles, outmatching comparable Russian systems. It's also much easier to reload and more mobile than its Russian counterparts. Per the Times, the US declined to send its most advanced systems, which have a range up to 200 miles, and agreed to send the HIMARS based on Ukrainian promises that the weapons won't be used to strike Russian territory. President Zelensky reiterated the point in an interview on Newsmax, saying, "We're not interested in what is happening in Russia. We're only interested in our own territory." In related news, Germany announced Wednesday that it will send Ukraine its most advanced air-defense system, the IRIS-T, which "could be deployed to protect whole cities." (Read more Ukraine stories.)