President Joe Biden has told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that the United States will provide a small number of long-range missiles to support the war with Russia, three U.S. officials and a congressional official familiar with the discussions told NBC News on Friday.
The officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not say when the missiles would be delivered or when a public announcement would be made.
For months, Ukraine has been demanding the Army’s tactical missile system, known as ATACMS, which would give Kiev the ability to strike targets from up to about 180 miles away, hitting supply lines, railways and command and control sites behind Russian front lines .
Defense officials said the U.S. does not have a large stockpile of surplus ATACMS, which have a larger payload than conventional artillery, to deliver to Ukraine. In addition, some in Washington are refusing to supply the weapons, colloquially known as “Attack-Ems,” for fear that they would expand the war with Russia.
The congressional official said there was still debate about what type of missiles would be sent and how many would be delivered to Ukraine. They added that countries in Eastern Europe had already handed over large parts of their weapons stocks to Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Biden administration has changed its stance on the weapons it is willing to provide to the Ukrainian military.
The White House initially denied approval for requests for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Howitzer artillery pieces, anti-ship missiles and HIMARS systems, but later gave the green light for their delivery.
The latest move comes just over two months after Biden signed a presidential waiver on the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite concerns from human rights groups and some U.S. allies that their use will lead to more civilian casualties.
Improved dual-use conventional munitions (DPICMs) are surface-to-surface warheads that explode and distribute multiple small munitions or bombs over wide areas – causing greater destruction than single projectiles.
Some human rights groups oppose their use because they fear that unexploded bomblets or unexploded ordnance could explode after combat, potentially injuring or killing innocent civilians.
Their use by both sides was documented during the war in Ukraine, according to Human Rights
In May, America and its allies also agreed to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.
While Ukrainian troops have broken through Russia’s heavily fortified first defense lines in the south and made progress in the east, Kiev’s military is yet to make a decisive breakthrough as winter approaches.
This has raised concerns about continued Allied support and shown signs of frustration even among its strongest supporters. Poland’s prime minister said this week that his country would stop sending weapons to its neighbor amid an escalating trade dispute and ahead of national elections.
At the same time, Ukraine has intensified its campaign of missile and drone attacks on locations deep behind Russian lines. The occupied Crimean peninsula has been repeatedly attacked, with the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet hit in the latest powerful missile attack on Friday.