Report: US Tweaked the Weapons It Gave Ukraine

'WSJ' reports US secretly modified rocket launchers to prevent firing of long-range missiles
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2022 9:10 AM CST
US Didn't Buy Ukraine's Promise on Supplied Weapons: Report
Ukrainian military's Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.   (AP Photo/LIBKOS)

The Biden administration must not have been convinced by Ukraine's promise not to use US-provided weapons to strike Russia, as the Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon secretly modified advanced rocket launchers sent to the war-torn country to prevent them from firing long-range missiles. The US has sent 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine since June. In announcing the provision, President Biden said they would be used for defense, not to "strike into Russia." Ukraine agreed and has "honored that pledge," per the Journal. However, anonymous officials now acknowledge that the HIMARS underwent hardware and software modifications to make them incapable of firing long-range missiles acquired from outside of the US.

This reflects "apprehensions among administration officials that their Ukrainian partner might stop keeping its promise not to strike Russian territory with US-provided weapons," the Journal reports. The US specified the HIMARS were to be used to fire supplied rockets known as Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), with a range of almost 50 miles. These "have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots, logistics supplies, and command centers on Ukrainian territory," per the Journal. But the US has refused to provide long-range, surface-to-surface missiles, like the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rockets, which could strike Russian targets almost 200 miles away. Russia says providing these weapons would make the US "a direct party to the conflict."

Charles Kupchan, the former senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council, says the US is right to consider the risk of escalation with Russia, as "encouraging or facilitating a Ukrainian effort to fully expel Russian forces from all of its territory, including Crimea," could prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin "to undertake even more reckless actions, including the possible use of nuclear weapons," per the Journal. Others say Putin won't be stopped unless Ukraine has access to long-range missiles. Indeed, "calls to provide Ukraine with longer-range missile systems and more advanced weaponry to strike back have grown more urgent after Russia in October began bombarding civilian infrastructure and energy grids in Ukraine," per the Hill. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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