Blinken Suggests Easing Military Limits on Ukraine

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled that the administration’s previous stance against allowing Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons to hit targets inside Russian territory might change.

Ukraine has received several billions of dollars in military aid from its allies, who have been wary of Russian President Vladimir Putin escalating the conflict further.

However, with the war increasingly favoring Russia, exploiting Ukraine’s ammunition and troop shortages due to months without U.S. military support, Ukraine’s allies are considering relaxing operational restrictions.

“We haven’t encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine, but Ukraine, as I’ve said before, has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself,” Blinken said on Wednesday, reiterating the administration’s public position.

“We’re going to make sure that it has the equipment it needs to do that. And another hallmark of our support for Ukraine over these now more than two years has been to adapt. As the conditions have changed, as the battlefield has changed, as what Russia does has changed in terms of how it’s pursuing its aggression, escalation, we’ve adapted and adjusted too, and I’m confident we’ll continue to do that,” he added, suggesting that previous restrictions could be lifted.

Several NATO countries have publicly announced that Ukraine could use their military aid to strike targets inside Russian territory, despite ongoing hesitation from others. U.S. officials have consistently stated that the U.S. does not “encourage or enable” Ukraine to attack targets inside Russia, but they often caveat this by noting that Ukrainian leaders make their own decisions.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly are among Western leaders who have recently stated that Ukraine can use their weapons to strike targets in Russia.

“How can we explain to Ukraine that they need to protect their cities but that they don’t have the right to attack where the missiles are coming from? It’s as if we were telling them we’re giving you arms, but you cannot use them to defend yourself,” Macron said late Tuesday during a press conference in Germany.

“We believe that we need to be forward-leaning on this question. Why? Because Russia has no red line,” Joly explained. “That is why we need to make sure that when it comes to Ukraine’s defense that we’re there to help them and that we show that notwithstanding what is happening, that we’re by their side. In Canada, there is no condition on end-user shipment of arms to Ukraine.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg argued earlier this week that “The right to self-defense includes hitting legitimate targets outside Ukraine,” while U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron stated in early May that Ukraine could use British long-range weapons, such as the Storm Shadow cruise missile, to retaliate against Russia.

Some European allies have not been as open to using their weapons to strike targets in Russia, fearing potential escalation.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a long-term security deal on Tuesday. The agreement includes Belgium providing Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028, although De Croo specified that the aid “is to be used in the Ukrainian territory.”

Zelensky called it “unfair,” adding, “But, and this is a fact, we cannot risk the support of our partners. That’s why we’re not using our partners’ arms to attack Russian territory. That’s why we’re asking please give us the permission to do that.”

Despite the Biden administration’s hesitation, a group of U.S. lawmakers, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, want the U.S. to greenlight the use of U.S. weapons by Ukraine against targets in Russian territory.

“Our Ukrainian allies are requesting permission to use certain weapons provided by the United States to conduct operations on strategic targets inside Russian and Russian-controlled territory,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this month. “The Biden Administration’s current policy is handcuffing Ukraine’s ability to push back on Russian forces near Kharkiv with U.S.-origin weapons.”

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. and NATO have sought to avoid escalating tensions with Putin, who has repeatedly issued threats of nuclear escalation.

Mike Brest
Mike Brest
Defense Reporter. Prior to joining the defense beat, he spent two years covering breaking news, and he worked at the Daily Caller in a similar capacity before that. Mike graduated from American University and is originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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