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White House moves toward lifting ban on Ukraine striking targets deep inside Russia with U.S. weapons
By Cassie B. // May 24, 2024

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that the White House could allow Ukraine to strike inside Russian territory using arms supplied by the U.S. in news that should make all clear-headed Americans very uneasy.

Kiev is currently banned from attacking Russian forces like those amassing near Kharkiv Oblast for an offensive using advanced American weapons such as ATACMS missiles.

However, official sources told the New York Times that this could be about to change at the behest of Blinken, and the State Department is currently engaged in a “vigorous debate” about this policy.

The paper reports that the Kharkiv situation is what changed Blinken’s mind. Russian forces have placed weapons just across the border from northeastern Ukraine, aiming them directly at Kharkiv while knowing that Ukrainian soldiers won’t be allowed to use American weaponry to respond. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that this gives Russia a “huge advantage.”

The head of the Ukrainian parliamentary commission on arms and ammunition, Oleksandra Ustinova, said: "(T)hey (Russia) know there is a restriction for Ukrainians to shoot at the Russian territory. And we saw all of their military equipment sitting one or two kilometers from the border (near Kharkiv), and there was nothing we could do."

Blinken recently returned from a two-day visit to Kiev and was asked about the recent complaints from Ukraine that they cannot attack Russian forces thanks to the ban.

"We've not enabled or encouraged strikes outside of Ukraine, but ultimately, Ukraine has to make decisions for itself about how it's going to conduct this war," which would seem to imply that if Ukraine decided to do so, they would not stop them.

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"The United States has united 50 countries over the past two years to ensure Ukrainian defense, and provided it with the weapons it needs to defend and repel Russian aggression," he added.

It is not yet known how many officials would support this proposal, which is reportedly still in its “formative stages,” but it does appear that it would have some restrictions. For example, it may allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian military facilities but could ban them from striking infrastructure such as oil refineries.

Changes to policy could lead to a dangerous escalation in tensions between U.S. and Russia

Until now, Biden has been insistent on banning this type of activity out of fears that it could cause a dangerous escalation with Russia, but the fact that these discussions are now taking place could mean that some insiders believe there is a chance he could change his mind.

At a press conference earlier this week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin indicated that there could be different rules pertaining to aerial targets. After reiterating the Biden administration’s stance on the matter, saying that “our expectation is that they continue to use the weapons that we’ve provided on targets inside of Ukraine,” he added: “The aerial dynamic’s a little bit different.”

The UK has already lifted its own restrictions, allowing Ukrainian forces to use its Storm Shadow cruise systems to target Russia. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently visited Kiev and said that Ukraine “absolutely has the right to strike back at Russia.”

The New York Times also reported that the U.S. is considering training Ukrainian troops inside of Ukraine instead of German training grounds. This would mean that American military personnel would need to be sent to Ukraine, which is another move that Biden has been firmly against in the past.

Sources for this article include:




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