Ukraine has been urging for the US to immediately transfer Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs), which have a range of up to 190 miles, capable of being fired from the HIMARS rocket systems, which the Ukrainians already possess.
But now the US is informing the Ukrainians that it doesn’t have enough of these long range missiles even if it were willing to provide them. Citing four US officials, Politico writes that “Transferring ATACMS to the battlefield in eastern Europe would dwindle America’s stockpiles and harm the U.S. military’s readiness for a future fight, the people said.”
An alternative that Ukrainian is considering seeking is to ask Washington to approve purchase of ATACMs from US allies which currently possess them, which includes Poland, Romania, Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Qatar and Bahrain.
Another main reason the US has cited in the past for not wanting to introduce ATACMs is the desire to avoid severe escalation with Russia in providing longer-range rockets.
But it looks like low Pentagon stockpiles is fast becoming the number one reason for holding back, with one US official referencing “a desire to maintain a certain level of munitions in U.S. stockpiles.”
“With any package, we always consider our readiness and our own stocks while providing Ukraine what it needs on the battlefield,” a senior DoD official said. “There are other ways of providing Ukraine with the capabilities it needs to strike the targets.”
In prior months, as reports of a potential ATACMS transfer emerged, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that if longer range munitions are supplied, the US would become “a party to the conflict”.
She stressed at the time that Russia “reserves the right to defend its territory” – given especially that longer range rockets could potentially be used to strike deep inside Russia, something that appears to have already happened on a handful of occasions with drones.
Meanwhile, a small handful of Congressional Republicans have been increasingly highlighting the issue of the US needing to prioritize its own defense readiness first, instead of handing essential advanced arms over to foreign countries while risking needless escalation with a nuclear-armed superpower.