A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System strikes a building housing ISIS fighters near Haditha, Iraq, on Sept. 7, 2016.

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System strikes a building housing ISIS fighters near Haditha, Iraq, on Sept. 7, 2016. U.S. Marine Corps / Capt. Ryan E. Alvis

US to Send Ukraine Advanced Rockets; Kyiv Promises Not to Fire Into Russia

The fourth large arms package announced by the administration includes HIMARS for defensive use only, as Biden eyes “negotiating table.”

The United States plans to send Ukraine advanced long-range artillery that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had requested for weeks, but Biden administration officials said would only be armed with limited-range munitions and would not be used to strike targets inside of Russia. 

White House officials on Tuesday announced that the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, would be part of new $700 million arms package for Ukraine, which has received increasingly more advanced and lethal weapons to fight Russia’s invasion.

“At this time, we've decided not to provide the longer range of munitions,” a senior administration official said. 

On Monday, President Joe Biden told reporters that his administration will “not…send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia,” according to a White House pool report. 

But medium-range rockets could reach Russia, if fired from positions near its border.

In the later briefing with reporters, the senior administration official said, “The Ukrainians have given us assurances they will not use these systems against targets in Russian territory.” 

“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Biden wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in The New York Times. He wrote that the weapons sent to Ukraine were intended to help Zelenskyy “fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”

The aid package also includes additional helicopters, counterfire radars, air surveillance radars, Javelin anti-tank weapons,  and more artillery rounds for the more than 100 howitzers the United States has already provided. The package will also include vehicles and spare parts to maintain all of the weapons already provided, the official said. 

This is the fourth major tranche of weapons to be sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February. The White House announced three $800 million weapons packages to aid Ukraine between March 16 and April 21. 

After exhausting the funds Congress had allotted for Ukraine, Biden last month asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to keep weapons flowing to Kyiv, in addition to providing money for economic aid, humanitarian recovery efforts, and restocking American weapons stockpiles. 

Lawmakers surpassed the president’s request and overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion supplemental funding bill on May 19. Biden signed the bill during his trip to Asia.