Joe Biden Gives Ukraine Permission to Hit Targets in Russia with U.S. Weapons

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after del
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

U.S. officials said on Friday that President Joe Biden has permitted Ukraine to attack certain targets on Russian soil with American weapons.

A senior American official who spoke to Fox News described the authorization as a “limited” policy shift that would give Ukraine the means to defend the city of Kharkiv from long-range Russian bombardment:

The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region, so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them. Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS or long-range strikes inside of Russia has not changed.

ATACMS stands for Army Tactical Missile System, a ballistic missile weapon with a range of about 185 miles that the United States officially began providing Ukraine in March; although, some observers believe the Ukrainians had them even sooner. The Ukrainians began asking for ATACMS shortly after Russia invaded in February 2022.

The White House said the decision to provide ATACMS was finalized after Russia was found to be “receiving and using” North Korean long-range ballistic missiles.

Ukrainian forces are apparently using ATACMS to great effect. On Thursday night, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said it was able to use the American missiles to knock out a ferry crossing in occupied Crimea that Russia has been using to supply its troops. The Russians deployed multiple air defense systems to protect the ferry, but those defenses were evidently unable to stop ATACMS missiles.

Another U.S. official told the BBC that Ukraine was given limited permission to use American weapons but not the deadly ATACMS for “counter-fire purposes” to “hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them.”

“We’ve never told them they can’t shoot down a Russian airplane over Russian soil that’s coming to attack them,” the official added when asked if Ukraine had been granted permission to fire anti-aircraft weapons into Russian airspace.

Soon after the U.S. made its announcement, Germany also said Kharkiv’s defenders were authorized to use long-range German weapons against some targets on Russian soil.

Russian forces have been hammering the city of Kharkiv near Ukraine’s northeastern border, where the Russian invaders opened a new front in April. Kharkiv is only about 12 miles from the border.

Russian bombs and missiles slammed into civilian structures across Kharkiv, inflicting dozens of deaths and injuries as they destroyed homes, farms, and markets. Russian missiles targeted an apartment block in Kharkiv on Friday, a few hours after the White House announcement, killing at least four people.

First responders work through the debris with construction vehicles at a damaged residential area after Russians attacked with S-300 missiles that hit Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 31, 2024. (Kharkiv Regional Military Adm./Anadolu via Getty Images)

The decision to let Ukraine strike back with long-range American weapons seems to have been made abruptly. As recently as Thursday afternoon, Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh insisted there would be “no change in our policy.”

“The security assistance that we provide Ukraine is to be used within Ukraine, and we don’t encourage attacks or enable attacks inside of Russia,” said Singh, just a few hours before the White House announced it would permit Ukraine to hit targets inside of Russia.

A Ukrainian intelligence officer told the New York Times on Friday that Ukrainian artillery commanders with American weapons were “happy” they could finally use their weapons against targets in Russia.

“Now we can finally hit them,” said one satisfied artillery commander.

The intelligence officer said “his understanding was that Ukraine had permission to launch strikes stretching to about 24 miles inside Russia.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the new rules of engagement “a step forward” in defending “our people who live in villages through the borderline.”

ukraine zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Berk Ozkan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russia was infuriated by the U.S. and Germany giving Ukraine permission to strike targets across the border. The Kremlin said that even before this permission was officially granted, Ukraine had launched foreign weapons into Russia, and the new orders threatened to escalate the conflict.

“Ukraine and its NATO allies will receive such a devastating response that the alliance won’t be able to avoid entering the conflict,” vowed Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.

“Russia regards all long-range weapons used by Ukraine as already being directly controlled by servicemen from NATO countries. This is no military assistance, this is participation in a war against us – and such actions could well become a casus belli,” he said, threatening:

The current military conflict with the West is developing according to the worst possible scenario. There is a constant escalation when it comes to the firepower of NATO weapons being used. Therefore, nobody today can rule out the conflict’s transition to its final stage.

Asked if he was referring to nuclear weapons, Medvedev said it would be a “fatal mistake” for the West to believe Russia would never use them.

“This is, alas, neither intimidation nor bluffing,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday the U.S. and NATO have “entered a new round of escalating tension, and they are doing this deliberately.”

“They are in every possible way provoking Ukraine to continue this senseless war,” said Peskov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned of “serious consequences” if Western weapons were used against targets on Russian soil.

“If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons? It’s hard to say – do they want a global conflict?” said Putin. Like Medvedev, he was speaking of nuclear war.

Putin menacingly said that European countries with “small territory and dense populations” should be “aware of what they are playing with” by provoking Russia.


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