An MBDA SCALP/Storm Shadow missile on display.

An MBDA SCALP/Storm Shadow missile on display. RABIH MOGHRABI/AFP via Getty Images

France is already sending Ukraine long-range missiles

Ambassador puts timeframe on Macron’s Tuesday announcement as U.S. lawmakers up pressure on Biden.

France has begun delivering cruise missiles to Ukraine, weapons with the kind of range that the Biden administration has so far resisted sending.

“Deliveries have been going on for some time, so it has been anticipated,” said Laurent Bili, France’s ambassador to the United States, said at a Wednesday event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bili spoke one day after French President Emmanuel Macron announced more vaguely that he had approved the transfer of deep-strike munitions.

"I have decided to increase deliveries of weapons and equipment to enable the Ukrainians to have the capacity to strike deeply,” Macron said. 

Macron declined to say how many missiles would be sent. Reuters reported that the shipments would include 50 MBDA SCALP missiles drawn from existing French military stocks.

An unnamed French military source quoted by Agence France Presse yesterday likewise stated that deliveries were already underway.

SCALP is the French name for the Storm Shadow cruise missile, which Britain began sending in May.  

“It has been a long discussion with the president,” Bili said. “The decision was made because we think it’s the right thing to do. We need to give Ukraine the means to win the war.”

The SCALP/Storm Shadow missile has a range of 250 kilometers, much farther than the 70-kilometer range of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) weapons that the U.S. has given Ukraine. 

British Storm Shadows were today credited with killing Russian Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov, according to reports out of Russia and as announced by Ukrainian officials. If confirmed, he would be the most senior Russian general killed in the war, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported. Estimates of the number of general-officer casualties range from nine to 20

The French ambassador declined to say whether France was pressuring the U.S. to send an equivalent long-range missile to meet Kyiv’s longstanding request. 

But U.S. lawmakers are stepping up pressure on the administration to provide Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, with an open letter issued Wednesday by the Republican chairs and ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House Foreign Affairs Committee. The ground-launched missile hitting can hit targets up to 300 kilometers away. 

In a letter that laid out the multiple times the administration sent arms only after much debate—from HIMARS to cluster munitions—the representatives argued that the administration should send ATACMS to Ukraine. 

Calling out Britain’s delivery of the Storm Shadow missile, the signatories said that the administration’s “fears of escalation remain unfounded.” 

U.S. Army Gen. Randy George, appearing for his Senate confirmation hearing today, was  asked whether ATACMS would give Ukraine an advantage on the battlefield. George responded affirmatively. 

Last Friday, a NATO official told reporters that the alliance had not seen anything to suggest that the Ukrainians had used British Storm Shadows contrary to agreements to use the weapon in accordance with international humanitarian law. 

“We have proven that we're using them in a very responsible way,” Markarova said, referring to foreign-supplied weapons. 

France appears to have laid out similar restraints for use of its missile. “There is some kind of understanding between us on what can be done or not with the weapon,” the French ambassador said.

Last year, Ukraine used U.S. GMLRS missiles to undercut Russia’s devastating superiority in artillery, in part by using the missiles to target Russian command headquarters and logistics hubs. Russia responded by withdrawing their depots and command centers beyond GMLRS range, around 120 kilometers from the front. 

“We are very grateful to our partners, for everything they have done to us,” Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova said Wednesday at the Carnegie event. “But we need more, because we still did not win.”