U.S. tells Ukraine it won’t send long-range missiles because it has few to spare

Robert McConnell
February 15, 2023

Below is an article from Politico that at the least should be embarrassing and at worst the suggestion of a public acceptance of the slaughter of defenseless civilians in Ukraine.

Washington is tellingUkraine we can’t send long-range missiles because it doesn’t have enough –really?

Washington’s refusal to send long-range missiles has evolved like a child’s excuses or explanations –if this one doesn’t work. What about this one, no, than how about ….

Ukraine has asked for and others like the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) have called for long-range missiles for months-and-months.

Washington’s first refusal was because giving long-range missiles could escalate the war.

Then there was giving Ukraine long-range missiles might lead to Ukraine using them to hit targets inside Russia which could escalate the war. This even though Washington has given Ukraine more limited weapons that could hit targets inside Russia but with the caveat that Ukraine was not to use them for hitting targets inside Russia - - and Ukraine has abided by those restrictions.

Now that is clear Russia is unleashing attacks on Ukraine from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula (meaning Ukrainian territory where supposedly Washington is OK with hitting Russian targets) but out of range of anything Ukraine has Washington doesn’t have enough long-range missiles to give.

Which is it? Did we just discover how many such missiles we have and learn we have a short supply? That would be embarrassing.

Or, is Washington just trying to come up with a saleable answer for why Ukraine must accept there will be sanctuaries from which Russia can rain down death and destruction and incur no costs?

If Washington really doesn’t have enough long-range missiles to help Ukraine then Washington should be doing everything in its power to get other countries to provide such weapons. If Washington is “with Ukraine until the end”, the “end” should not be the unchecked death and destruction from sanctuaries that could be destroyed if Ukraine had the missiles.


U.S. tells Ukraine it won’t send long-range missiles because it has  few to spare

The  Biden administration wants to ensure it has enough ATACMS for the U.S.  military.

Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley will be in Brussels to host the ninth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a monthly gathering of 50 nations that will discuss what new military support they can provide Ukraine. | Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images


02/13/2023 06:03 PM EST

Biden  administration has given its Ukrainian counterparts another reason for not  sending them much-wanted long-range missiles: The U.S. is concerned it  wouldn’t have enough for itself. [Note  Politico’s wording “another reason” – I am not the only one who see the  reasons evolving. RAM]


In  recent meetings at the Pentagon, U.S. officials told Kyiv’s representatives  that it doesn’t have any Army Tactical Missile Systems to spare, according to  four people with knowledge of the talks. Transferring ATACMS to the battlefield in eastern Europe would dwindle America’s stockpiles and harm the  U.S. military’s readiness for a future fight, the people said.


That  worry, along with the administration’s existing concern that Ukraine would  use the 190-mile range missiles to attack deep inside Russian territory and  cross what the Kremlin has said is a red line, is why the U.S. isn’t shipping ATACMS to the frontlines any time soon. [You do not win wars by being deterred by the enemy – you deter  the enemy. Russia has a red line – so what? Give Ukraine what it needs to win  this war and save lives. RAM]


The  Pentagon’s assessment of its stockpiles is informed in part by how many  weapons and munitions planners think they might need to confront an enemy.  Those plans have not been significantly revised since the start of the war in Ukraine, and have not recalibrated what the stockpiles the U.S. might need in  reserve to face a weakened Russia, or account for the fact that Ukraine is  essentially fighting that war right now.


One  of the reasons the military is hesitant to send the ATACMS is due to a desire  to maintain a certain level of munitions in U.S. stockpiles, said one U.S.  official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military calculations. [But  the question is – when did this latest concern manifest itself? Has it been  there all along but Washington thought it a bad idea to tell the  enemy/enemies of our limitations or did someone finally count our stockpile?  Who is in charge? RAM]


“With  any package, we always consider our readiness and our own stocks while  providing Ukraine what it needs on the battlefield,” said a senior DoD  official. “There are other ways of providing Ukraine with the capabilities it  needs to strike the targets.” [“Other  ways” – so let us in on the secret! Let Ukraine in on the secret! Get Ukraine  what it needs – now! RAM]


Laura  Cooper, the Pentagon’s top policy official for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia  issues, said in a recent interview that “with every single capability that we  provide, whether you’re talking, you know, HIMARS or you’re talking a particular  kind of missile or ammunition, we’re always looking at the availability of  our stocks, we’re looking at production considerations, and so that’s true of  every capability, and we make decisions accordingly.” [What about planning? Please don’t admit  Washington has simply reacted after battlefield realities. This war is not  and has not been unpredictable. Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) has  recommended every weapons system eventually provided to Ukraine for at least  three years before it has been provided. Stocks should have been known and  factored in long before last February 24. There has been time to deliver to  Ukraine what it needed and needs now. As we have asked before – what is  Washington’s goal in Ukraine? At least three Administration’s in to Putin’s  evolving war against Ukraine and the goal has never been clear. It is time –  Ukraine winning must be the goal. RAM]


Lockheed  Martin has produced about 4,000 ATACMS in various configurations over the  past two decades. Some of those missiles have been sold to allied nations,  which bought the missile for their own multiple rocket launcher systems.  Around 600 were fired by U.S. forces in combat during the Persian Gulf War  and the Iraq War.


One  workaround being considered by Kyiv is to ask for Washington’s approval to  buy ATACMS from an allied country that operates the weapon, using military  financing from the United States, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions. The list of ATACMS users includes South Korea, Poland,  Romania, Greece, Turkey, Qatar and Bahrain. [“Being considered by Kyiv” – give me a  break! If we are short on long-range missiles we should have known that just  like we had to know of Ukraine’s need for them. Kyiv is fighting a war  benefiting our own critical national security interests – Washington should  have initiated workarounds to get Ukraine what it needs. RAM]


The  other issue over sending ATACMS — that it’s too aggressive a move by Biden’s  team — remains. But Ukrainian officials have heard such arguments about other  weapons before, only for the Biden administration to reverse course and send  artillery, missile defenses and tanks. [It has not been just the Biden Administration – Washington has  been shamefully timid through multiple administrations. You want to talk  about too aggressive? Start with Putin’s malevolent invasion of its neighbor  and follow his war crimes and his genocide! Yes, genocide. The definition  includes the kidnapping of children, changing their birthdates, their names,  indoctrination and having them adopted by Russian families to make them  Russian. The number kidnapped now exceeds 14,000 – where is the outrage!  Where is a Washington decision that its goal is for Ukraine to win this war  and for Washington to do what must be done for Ukraine to have what it needs  to win? RAM]


Despite  Washington’s reservations, Ukraine continues to push for more advanced  weapons, with ATACMS typically at the top of the list.


“Ukraine  needs long-range missiles,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a  January video address to the Ukrainian people, “to deprive the occupier of  the opportunity to place its missile launchers somewhere far from the front  line and destroy Ukrainian cities.”


On  Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark  Milley will be in Brussels to host the ninth meeting of the Ukraine Defense  Contact Group, a monthly gathering of 50 nations that will discuss what new military support they can provide Ukraine. Kyiv is planning a spring and  summer offensive to counter Russia’s assaults in the Donbas and Moscow’s  drone and missile campaign against civilian targets. [OK, this article is several days old but so  far nothing reassuring has come out of Brussels. Good grief, just mention  Milley and one has to shudder about where Washington is on this war. A couple  of weeks ago the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said Ukraine could not win.  Yesterday he said Russia has lost. Hello! Skip words and deliver to Ukraine  what it needs to win. RAM]


One  person close to the Ukrainian government said that Kyiv doesn’t anticipate  any new weapons in the assistance package Austin will announce this week. The  drawdowns from existing stocks and contracts for new weapons won’t include  ATACMS or F-16 warplanes, but will focus on ammunition, munitions, air  defense and spare parts.


Whatever  the U.S. package — and other pledges by partner nations — Ukraine is looking  for more secrecy when those governments announce that assistance. [More secrecy period! What Washington has  consistently not been secret about is telling the world what it would not  give Ukraine. Even though many weapons Washington said it would not provide,  it eventually provided think if the message being sent – to Ukraine, to  Putin, to China and to anyone who wants to look to Washington for leadership.  RAM]


Officials  in Kyiv are growing concerned that some of the more detailed lists coming out  of Washington and elsewhere could risk providing too much information to  their Russian foes, who can prepare defenses or countermeasures if they know  what they’ll be facing, according to one of the people.


Zelenskyy  alluded to those growing concerns on Thursday in Brussels when he met with  European Union leaders to talk about what he needs this year and beyond.


Fresh  off a successful trip to London where he met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,  who pledged to help train Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO fighter jets,  Zelenskyy said “we have moved towards the solutions concerning the long-range missiles and the training of our pilots… Also there are certain agreements  which are not public but are positive. When these items will happen, our  state will know this, but I don’t want to prepare the Russian Federation.” [I must note FOUN understanding that the West  cannot just give jet fighters like the F-16 but must train pilots to fly and  then to be combat ready in such aircraft has recommended such training since  2018. Why hasn’t training begun? A failure another example of being deterred.  RAM]


The  U.S. and allies have long maintained some element of mystery over some  capabilities sent to Ukraine, cloaking some military aid under vague catchall  categories such as rocket artillery or drones that could mean any number of things. [Don’t  get carried away with this congratulatory self-backslap. RAM]


But  the U.S. has also done more than most countries to announce the amount and  nature of its donations and defense contracts proposed with Ukraine, as the  Biden administration tries to show its commitment to Kyiv.


Others,  such as Finland, Sweden, Spain and Canada, are more vague, and generally  decline to list most of the specific equipment, weapons and munitions they  provide.


The  desire for more secrecy can be seen as a difficult request for some countries  that are eager to show how deep their support for Ukraine goes, especially  when that support can also mean American military financing to replace stocks  in later years. At Thursday’s EU summit, Zelenskyy formally asked Slovakian  Prime Minister Eduard Heger to transfer some of his country’s MiG-29 fighter  planes to Ukraine.


On Friday, Heger said he was ready to start talks on  the potential transfer. “The Ukrainian president asked me to deliver the  MiGs. Now, because this official request has come, the process of  negotiations can be started,” Heger said.

By Robert McConnell
February 15, 2023

Please note the introductory and parenthetical comments  above are Mr. McConnell’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the  U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the FOUN.