“America’s goal is simple: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign, and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend against further aggression,” Biden said in an essay published Tuesday night in the New York Times. “We are not looking for a war between NATO and Russia,” added his essay.
An announcement on advanced rocket systems was expected this week as officials ponder how to help Kyiv defend itself without further stoking tensions with Russia.
US prepares to send advanced rocket systems to Ukraine
The United States is sending the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, that will extend Ukraine’s reach in the ongoing artillery war with Russia, a senior administration official said Tuesday. The United States will not supply the longer-range ammunition for the system to Ukraine, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters. The advanced weapons are part of a new set of $700 million military equipment.
HIMARS is a type of multiple launch rocket system. Typical rockets fired by these systems have a range of about 43 miles, according to US military data. Ukrainians currently use a Russian version of this system, the official said.
The Kremlin has warned that any country supplying advanced weapons to Ukraine will face serious repercussions. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West had “declared total war” on Russia.
Shortly after the essay was published, the Russian Defense Ministry said its strategic missile forces were conducting exercises in Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow. According to state media, the Strategic Missile Division is Moscow’s main force responsible for “nuclear deterrence of possible aggression”. The exercises would have involved the Yars, a Russian intercontinental ballistic missile.
In his essay, Biden assured Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States had no intention of provoking a wider conflict or the use of weapons of mass destruction.
“We neither encourage nor allow Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” Biden wrote. He added that “we currently see no indication that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although Russia’s occasional rhetoric about waving the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible.”
Ukrainian forces are already using US-supplied M777 howitzers, which have a range of around 18 miles. Other sophisticated weapons sent by the United States include thousands of shoulder-fired Stinger and Javelin missiles.
The addition of the HIMARS system to Ukraine’s arsenal comes as Kyiv is losing ground to Moscow in an artillery-dominated battle in the Donbass, despite the flood of US and Western weapons.
Russian forces now control most of Severodonetsk, one of the last major areas under Ukrainian control in the eastern Luhansk region, local officials said Tuesday evening. Russia has beaten the city for weeks, and capturing it would give the Kremlin an important symbolic victory.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his overnight address on Tuesday that Moscow’s combat power was at “maximum” in the region.