US secretly supplies Ukraine with long-range missiles that can reach deep inside Russia

Legislation also includes funds for humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 25 April 2024 11:42 BST
Biden ignores reporter questions on TikTok ban and university encampments

The United States has secretly provided Ukrainian armed forces with long-range ballistic missiles which have already been used to strike targets deep within Russian territory, according to US officials.

The delivery of the long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) was authorised by President Joe Biden last month as part of a $300m arms package, and Kyiv has begun putting them to use in recent days, by hitting a Russian military airfield in Crimea last week as well as Russian forces in another occupied area overnight.

More of the US-made missiles will be provided as part of an arms and aid package which Mr Biden said would be dispatched “within hours” after he signed a $95bn national security appropriations bill.

The president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Mr Biden put his signature to a “very substantial drawdown package” after he signed the long-awaited legislation at the White House on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Senate voted to approve it by a margin of 78 votes in favour and 18 against. The vote in the upper chamber ended a months-long standoff fueled by isolationist Republican opposition.

Mr Sullivan said it would include “urgently needed artillery” and ammunition for the HIMARS rocket system, as well as “more armoured vehicles, Javelins, Stingers, and air defence interceptors, among other things,” all of which were “going to start moving immediately to make up for lost time at this critical moment”.

He also confirmed that a “significant number” of ATACMS missiles had been dispatched on orders from Mr Biden in February “for use inside Ukraine sovereign territory” and said the decision to allow Ukrainian forces the use of those advanced missiles was in part a response to Russia acquiring and using North Korean ballistic missiles in attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.

“What we have seen from the Russians is their willingness to accept long range missiles from other countries, specifically North Korea. They have used those in the battlefield. they have used them to attack Ukrainian civilians as well. So from our perspective ... being able to step up and provide our own capabilities to Ukraine as partners of ours have ... we think it’s appropriate to do at this moment. We think it is a good capability in this phase of the conflict for Ukraine,” he added.

Hours earlier, Mr Biden addressed reporters from the White House State Dining Room just after he’d signed the legislation. He said the approval of the defence aid package was “a good day for America ... a good day for Europe,” and “for world peace, for real”.

“This is consequential,” he said, adding that law he’d just signed would “make America safer” and “make the world safer” while continuing “American leadership in the world”.

“It gives vital support to America’s partners ... so they can defend themselves against threats to their sovereignty, and the lives and freedom of their citizens”.

He also called the new spending law “an investment in our own security, because when our allies are stronger ... we are stronger”.

“I’m grateful. We’re all grateful to all those in Congress, Democrats, Republicans, independents who voted for this bill. Its path to my desk ... was a difficult path. It should have been easier and should have gotten there sooner. But in the end we did it ... we rose to the moment came together, and we got it done,” he said.

The legislation also includes funds for humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. Reporters shouted questions specifically about Gaza at the president, but he elected not to answer them.

Mr Biden also ignored questions about TikTok, which faces being banned in the United States after the Senate passed a bill forcing it to either sell or shut down in the country.

The president’s signature on the supplemental spending legislation for Ukraine put an end to a months-long blockade staged by Republicans in Congress who had threatened to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson from his post if he allowed a vote on any bills that might to fund Ukrainian defence needs.

It provides roughly $61bn for Ukraine and replenishing American weapons stockpiles that have been drawn down to provide ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces over the last year. The bill also provides $9bn in forgivable loans for economic assistance to Kyiv.

For Israel and Gaza, there is a combined $26bn now appropriated, including $4bn for Israel’s missile defence systems and another $9bn intended for humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The president said the law he’d signed would “significantly increases humanitarian assistance we're sending to the innocent people of Gaza who are suffering badly” and “suffering consequences for what Hamas started”.

“We're going to immediately secure that aid ... including food, medical supplies, clean water, and Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” he continued, adding that “everything we do is guided by the ultimate goal of bringing this hostages home, securing a ceasefire and setting the conditions for an enduring peace”.

Mr Biden thanked Mr Johnson, along with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for pushing the bill through their respective chambers.

“They don’t always agree. But when it matters most. They stepped up and did the right thing ... sincerely history will remember this time,” he said, adding later that the two major parties had come together “time and time again ... on the critical issues” over the last three years.

“When it came time to stand with Ukraine and Israel and help the people of Gaza, we did that as well. At the end of the day, most of us — whether we're Democrats, Republicans or independents — believe that America must stand up for what is right. We don't walk away from our allies, we stand with them. We don't let tyrants [prevail] when we oppose them. We don't really watch global events unfold; we shape them. That's what it means to be the indispensable nation... to be the world's superpower and the world's leading democracy,” he said.

The president added that the votes to approve the bill in the House and Senate made clear that there is a “bipartisan consensus for that kind of American leadership” on the world stage.

“That's exactly what we'll continue to deliver,” he said.

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