Washington officials have reportedly conceded that the long-range missiles might not be effective in destroying Russian aircraft
US officials have reportedly raised doubts about the effectiveness of the long-range missiles that President Joe Biden reluctantly agreed to provide to Ukraine, saying they might not be a significant difference-maker in Kiev’s conflict with Russian forces.
At issue is the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which Biden agreed to give to Ukraine in September after previously holding back on concern that the weapon could escalate the conflict by enabling Kiev to fire deep into Russian territory. “Now the fear about the ATACMS is that they will not make that big a difference because the Russians are learning how to park their aircraft beyond the weapons’ reach,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified Biden aides.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky pressed for months to persuade Washington to provide the ATACMS, saying it was crucial to striking deep behind Russian lines. Zelensky claimed to have used the missiles for the first time on October 17, saying they had “proven themselves” effective. Ukraine was reportedly given a version of the weapon with a range of about 100 miles (about 160km), rather than the system’s maximum reach of 190 miles.
Russian forces claimed to have intercepted two ATACMS missiles late last month. Ukraine has used the missiles to target Russian airfields. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the ATACMS would merely “prolong the agony” for Ukraine but would not be a game-changer on the battlefield. “We, of course, will be able to repel these attacks,” he told reporters.
Biden is “confronting the limits” of his leverage over the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts, the New York Times said. US officials were troubled by Ukrainian General Valery Zaluzhny’s comment last week admitting that he didn’t expect a major “breakthrough” on the battlefield. Many of Biden’s aides agree that the conflict has reached a “stalemate,” the newspaper said, “but they fear that General Zaluzhny’s candor will make it harder to get Republicans to vote for aggressive funding for the war.”
Biden administration officials also are worried that the comment may embolden Putin to “dig in” and wait for a possible pullback in US support for Ukraine if Donald Trump or another Republican wins next year’s presidential election.