Biden could send new longer-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine

ATACMS (army tactical missile systems) would be among a variety of missiles in the package to Ukraine
ATACMS (army tactical missile systems) would be among a variety of missiles in the package to Ukraine - HANDOUT/AFP

The Biden administration is working towards supplying Ukraine with powerful new long-range ballistic missiles, two high-ranking US officials have said.

After months of requests from Ukrainian officials, the administration is reportedly willing to send a variant of the missiles – known as ATACMS (army tactical missile systems) – if the foreign aid package passed by the Senate last week becomes law.

The defence officials told NBC that the US has a limited supply of ATACMS and is not likely to send its own to Ukraine without money to replenish its stockpiles.

According to the officials, the US has not ruled out asking Nato allies to provide the missiles for Ukraine with the expectation that the US would refill the stockpile at a later date.

Last year, the US began to supply Ukraine with older, medium-range ATACMS. The new variations of ATACMS that the White House wants to send to Ukraine will have a maximum range of nearly 200 miles (300km) and carry cluster bombs that would allow forces to strike farther inside Crimea.

Ukrainian servicemen carry shells for a tank, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Luhansk region
Ukraine has called on the US and Nato countries for aid as the country's supply dwindles - STRINGER/REUTERS

The $95 billion (£75 billion) aid package, currently being delayed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, earmarks $65 billion for Ukraine with the rest going to Israel and Taiwan.

Donald Trump, the former president, and other Senate Republicans attempted to kill the foreign aid measure up until the vote. In a blow to Mr Trump, 22 Republicans defied him and voted alongside the Democrats in passing the measure.

For months, Republicans have been reluctant to support the Biden administration’s Ukraine funding and have said that they’ll only agree to it if the administration agrees to a package of Republican immigration and border security measures.

While it’s not clear whether or when the house will vote on the package, Joe Biden has continued to call the package critical to Ukraine and assured Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, he was confident it would eventually be approved.

If Congress does approve the funding for Ukraine, the long-range ATACMS could be included in one of the first packages of aid paid for with that money.

Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister who met with Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said in Munich on Saturday the pair discussed Ukraine’s urgent need for longer-range weapons.

“There is only one way to destroy Russian capabilities in Ukraine. It’s to hit deep into the occupied territories, bypassing Russian radio electronic warfare and interceptors.”