FT: US silent on decision to hand over ATACMS missiles to Ukraine to take Russian forces by surprise

The administration of US President Joe Biden decided to transfer long-range ATACMS missiles to Kyiv even before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, but did not announce it publicly, the Financial Times has reported.

According to the newspaper’s interlocutor, this was done to keep the Russian command in the dark so that the Russian army would not be able to “move its supply lines further away from the front line”.

The U.S. will send a small batch of ATACMS in the near future – these are missiles equipped with cluster munitions rather than a single warhead, the source said.

The day before, information about such deliveries was confirmed by three U.S. officials and a congressman in a conversation with NBC News. ATACMS will allow the AFU to attack targets at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, striking at the “arteries” of the Russian army’s supply lines and control points behind the front line. British-French Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles already perform this task. However, they are launched from airplanes, while ATACMS are launched from mobile ground systems like HIMARS, so they can be used more effectively.

The transfer of ATACMS to Ukraine may prompt Germany to send Kyiv long-range Taurus cruise missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported. Earlier, sources in the country’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) noted that the government is already discussing the issue with the United States, as coordinated action with Washington is a prerequisite for approving the delivery of new weapons systems to Kiev.

Ukraine has been asking for ATACMS for months, starting last year. However, the Biden administration responded with a refusal, fearing an escalation of the conflict. Subsequently, the Pentagon said that the US needed such missiles for its own defense. The White House has not officially confirmed their delivery until now.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told The War Zone that Ukraine is going to use ATACMS to hit Russian command posts and airbases that are out of range of available assets, but a small number of such missiles would have little effect on the situation: “At least hundreds are needed”.

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