Home News Blinken suggests U.S. may allow Ukraine more freedom to strike Russia

Blinken suggests U.S. may allow Ukraine more freedom to strike Russia

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Friday that President Biden might allow Ukraine to use American-made weapons to strike a wider range of targets in Russia beyond the strike he has approved on a launch site currently being used by Russia to attack the Kharkiv region.

“Going forward, we’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is: adapt and adjust as needed,” Blinken said at a news conference at the end of a two-day meeting of top diplomats from NATO member states in Prague.

Blinken made the comments in response to a reporter’s question about whether the United States would allow Ukraine to use American-made weapons deep into Russia. Blinken used the term “adapt and adjust” during a news conference in Chisinau, Moldova, on Wednesday, suggesting Biden was about to make a major policy shift and allow Ukraine to use those weapons to attack Russia, as Ukrainian and European leaders have urged for weeks.

U.S. officials said Thursday that Biden This decision has been made in recent days And told the Ukrainians, but the strikes allowed against Russia were limited to the locations Russia used to attack Kharkiv. U.S. officials said the rules prohibiting Ukraine from using weapons to attack Russia “long-range” have not changed.

But Blinken’s comments on Friday suggested the ban could change, depending on battlefield conditions and changes in the direction of the war. He did say, however, that the United States is “moving forward cautiously and effectively.” That includes ensuring Ukrainian soldiers receive the necessary training to use new weapon systems and have the ability to maintain them, he said.

U.S. officials said the policy shift means Ukraine can launch a preemptive strike against Russia using U.S. weapons, but only in a Russian region near Kharkiv designated by the Pentagon and that U.S. military officials have informed the Ukrainian military of this.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said at another press conference in Prague on Friday that he welcomed the easing of restrictions on Ukraine and said that senior diplomats from NATO governments had made some progress in discussions on Ukraine over the past two days.

He said they agreed that NATO should play a greater coordinating role in all military assistance to Ukraine and that member states should work to provide at least 40 billion euros ($43 billion) a year in such aid “where necessary.” That would give Ukraine predictability as it plans for its long-term defense, he added.

He said the diplomats also agreed to try to shorten Ukraine’s path to NATO membership, but gave no further details.

Biden’s decision to allow Ukraine to strike certain targets inside Russia came after weeks of discussions with Ukraine and at the urging of key European allies. Secret meeting in Washington This month, his top aides discussed the benefits and potential consequences of giving Ukraine more discretion in using American weapons.

Mr. Blinken urge Mr. Trump agreed to provide the Ukrainians with the clearance, as did other senior officials — notably Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, Lloyd J. Austin III, the defense secretary, and Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. American officials said they made the recommendation to Mr. Biden, who understood the need.

Three days later, Visited on May 14 While in Kyiv, Blinken met with Biden and Sullivan at the White House and stressed the need to ease restrictions on the use of U.S.-made weapons in Ukraine to better defend the Kharkiv region.

Russia has been on the offensive in the region since early May, using launch sites within its borders to launch attacks on Ukraine. The Ukrainians believe they need to be able to use powerful weapons to counter artillery, missile launchers and air bases. Some Russian aircraft are launching Glide bomb Missiles were launched from inside Russian airspace, striking targets around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

On May 20, Ukrainian President Zelensky told the New York Times In an interview in Kiev, he said Russia’s ability to carry out cross-border attacks gave it a “huge advantage” in the war. Ukraine has used drones and other non-U.S.-made weapons to strike inside Russia, but the United States is by far the largest supplier of the more powerful weapons that Ukrainian commanders believe could be decisive.

Biden has not eased restrictions in large part because of concerns among American officials that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could use tactical nuclear warheads in Ukraine. Those concerns peaked in October 2022 and have since receded as intelligence agencies assessed Russia’s military moves around the country’s nuclear arsenal. For months, European officials have said their intelligence assessments suggest Putin is not as likely to use nuclear weapons as Americans believe.

Leaders of China and India, both big buyers of Russian oil, have warned Mr. Putin not to cross the nuclear weapons line, which has factored into recent U.S. calculations, American officials said. While India has remained neutral in the war, China is Russia’s most important partner and, according to American officials, has helped rebuild Russia’s military-industrial base through exports of machinery, production tools, chips and other microelectronics. (Mr. Blinken noted Friday that the United States has sanctioned more than 100 Chinese entities for providing assistance to Russia and said he expected “Europe to take action.”)

U.S. officials also believe that the Russians have long believed that the United States has given Ukraine wide latitude in using nuclear weapons, so making the idea a reality is not as provocative as U.S. officials previously believed.

NATO’s meeting in Prague is in preparation for a July leaders’ summit in Washington to mark the alliance’s 75th anniversary, when officials say they will make more substantive announcements on Ukraine’s defense.

Blinken said Biden and other leaders at the summit will reveal details of a “robust package of support” for Ukraine.

“Our goal now is to build the bridge to bring Ukraine closer to NATO and eventually to NATO membership. And as I said, I think you’re going to see that bridge emerge at the summit,” he said.

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