The Biden administration is resisting sending long-range rocket launchers to Ukraine over concerns it would escalate the conflict with Russia, Politico reports.
Officials say the Ukrainian government has “pleaded” for months for the administration to send the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.
Ukrainian officials believe that the White House is resisting over concerns that the system could be used to launch rockets into Russia, which could escalate the conflict.
“There was momentum on it at Ramstein, but that seems to have cooled,” a congressional aide told Politico, referring to a meeting of 40 nations in Germany to discuss the war. “There’s definitely a frustration building” in Ukraine, the aide said.
Biden admin in “active discussions”:
A Biden administration official told Politico that there have been “active discussions” about the weapons system.
“We have to make decisions about what weapons systems provide the biggest bang for the buck,” the official said. With the latest funding package being whittled down, the administration decided “it was more effective and efficient to send the 90 M777 [howitzers] because you can send more of them” than a smaller number of MLRS.
The US has quietly sent Soviet-era multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine but have resisted sending newer, more accurate and powerful systems.
Worries of escalation:
The White House worries that sending the MLRS or similar weapons could be seen as an escalation by the Kremlin.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that Putin could slide into “a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory” if the war drags on “or if he perceives Russia is losing in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian officials say they need the weapons systems to end the war faster.
“With this in mind, we want to defeat the enemy and liberate our territories as soon as possible,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the European Union Foreign Affairs Council Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the G7 earlier this month that Ukraine “must receive all the weapons and all the defense equipment that will allow the defeat of tyranny — in particular the M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS multiple launch rocket systems and other weapons that Ukraine requested from your powerful states.”