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U.S. quietly sent Ukraine long-range missiles following a secret directive from Biden

  The Pentagon admitted that the United States sent long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Kyiv in response to a secret direct...

 The Pentagon admitted that the United States sent long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Kyiv in response to a secret directive from President Joe Biden despite concerns about the move provoking Russia.

After Biden secretly approved the transfer of more than 100 of the missiles to Ukraine in February, presumably without congressional approval, they were quietly included in the United States's $300 million aid package that was announced last month and delivered to the country earlier this month. The missiles boast a range of up to 190 miles.

The news was revealed by the New York Times, which said that an anonymous source told Times reporters that Ukraine recently used the missiles to target a Russian military airfield in Crimea around 100 miles from the front line.

Ukrainian forces also allegedly used these missiles to strike Russian troops in the port area of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov. Videos posted online by residents where the missiles have been used show fires erupting and houses with their windows blown out.

Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Col. Garron Garn confirmed the news, stating: “It was not announced that we are providing Ukraine with this new capability at the time in order to maintain operational security for Ukraine at their request.”

He declined to answer further questions about the matter and directed journalists to ask the Ukrainian military for more details.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing for longer-range missiles. Although the Pentagon was opposed to providing them at first, an anonymous official told Reuters that their view changed after Russia started targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure with ballistic missiles that are believed to have been supplied by North Korea. 

The source said that multiple officials pressured Biden to send the missiles, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The missiles were paid for using savings accumulated after some military contracts delivered for below their original bid value and were acquired from Lockheed Martin instead of from Department of Defense stockpiles. Biden reportedly told his aides to keep the matter a secret on the grounds of protecting “operational security and the element of surprise."

Concerns about escalating war and compromising American readiness

Readiness concerns are one of the reasons the Biden administration has hesitated to send these missiles in the past. Producing ATACMS missiles is complex and time-consuming, and Lockheed Martin claims it can only produce around 500 of them per year at full-rate production speeds. The U.S. has reportedly been working behind the scenes to allay readiness concerns by filling up military stocks and purchasing more of the missiles.

Pentagon Spokesman Major Charlie Dietz said: “We had warned Russia against acquiring North Korean ballistic missiles and against renewing its attacks against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. With our readiness concerns resolved, we were able to follow through on our warning and provide this long-range capability to Ukraine.”

Although American officials had been hesitant to provide ATACMS due to fears it could further provoke Moscow if they are deployed, the U.S. is expected to provide Ukraine with even more of these missiles in the controversial new military assistance package that Biden recently signed into law providing $61 billion in assistance to Kiev following a lengthy holdup in Congress.

American military officials have said that the U.S.’s ATACMS arsenal is fairly small and that the missiles are already earmarked for other uses in places like the Korean Peninsula. Just 4,000 of them have been manufactured since their development in the 1980s.

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