The Mercury News Weekend
U.S. to send longer-range bombs in a turnaround
WASHINGTON >> After months of agonizing, the U.S has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as it prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory Russia captured last year, U.S. officials said Thursday, confirming that the new weapons will have roughly double the range of any other offensive weapon provided by America.
The U.S. will provide ground-launched small diameter bombs as part of a $2.17 billion aid package it is expected to announce today, several U.S. officials said. The package also for the first time includes equipment to connect all the different air defense systems Western allies have rushed to the battlefield and integrate them into Ukraine's own air defenses, to help it better defend against Russia's missile attacks.
For months, U.S. officials have hesitated to send longer-range systems to Ukraine out of concern that they would be used to target inside Russia, escalating the conflict and drawing the U.S. deeper into the conflict. The longer-range bombs are the latest advanced system, such as Abrams tanks and the Patriot missile defense system, that the U.S. has eventually agreed to provide Ukraine after initially saying no. U.S. officials, though, have continued to reject Ukraine's requests for fighter jets.
Ukrainian leaders have urgently pressed for longer-range munitions, and
Thursday officials said the U.S. will send an undisclosed number of the ground-launched, small diameter bombs, which have a range of about 95 miles . The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the aid package not yet made public.
To date, the longestrange missile provided by the U.S. is about 50 miles. The funding in the aid package is for longer-term purchases, so it wasn't clear Thursday how long it will take to get the bomb to the battlefield in Ukraine.
Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Thursday the country is prepared to offer guarantees to its Western partners that their weapons won't be used to strike inside Russian territory, adding that Kyiv needs weapons with a range of about 185 miles to expel the Russian forces.
“If we could strike at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army wouldn't be able to mount a defense and will have to withdraw,” Reznikov said at a meeting with EU officials. “Ukraine is ready to provide any guarantees that your weapons will not be involved in attacks on the Russian territory. We have enough targets in the occupied areas of Ukraine, and we're prepared to coordinate on (these) targets with our partners.”
The U.S. aid package includes $425 million in ammunition and support equipment that will be pulled from existing Pentagon stockpiles.