Written by 08:17 World

Under Pressure, Biden Allows Ukraine to Use U.S. Weapons to Strike Inside Russia

President Biden, in a major shift pressed by his advisers and key allies, has authorized Ukraine to conduct limited strikes inside Russia with American-made weapons, opening what could well be a new chapter in the war for Ukraine, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Mr. Biden’s decision appears to mark the first time that an American president has allowed limited military responses on artillery, missile bases and command centers inside the borders of a nuclear-armed adversary. White House officials insisted, however, that the authorization extended only to what they characterized as acts of self-defense, so that Ukraine could protect Kharkiv, its second-largest city, and the surrounding areas from missiles, glide bombs and artillery shells from just over the border.

“The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them,” a U.S. official said in a statement issued by the administration. “Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS or long-range strikes inside of Russia has not changed,” the statement continued, referring to an artillery system, provided to Ukraine, that has the capability to reach deep inside Russian territory.

The decision by Mr. Biden was reported earlier on Thursday by Politico.

American officials said that the change in policy went into effect on Thursday.

Though the White House cast the decision as a narrow one, allowing the Ukrainians to strike pre-emptively if they see evidence of preparations for an attack, or in response to a Russian barrage near Kharkiv, the implications are clearly much broader. Until now, Mr. Biden has flatly refused to let Ukraine use American-made weapons outside of Ukrainian borders, no matter what the provocation, saying that any attack on Russian territory risked violating his mandate to “avoid World War III.”

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Last modified: 3 June 2024
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