The US and its allies are in talks over whether to send Ukraine more advanced weapons in the future, including fighter jets, US defense sources have said, according to the Financial Times. The Kharkiv counteroffensive has apparently emboldened Ukrainian officials to press Washington harder for more advanced and longer-range weapons, now that some degree of success in rolling back Russian forces can be demonstrated.
The idea is that if Ukraine's forces can prove they've taken back significant territory with what defense systems the US has provided so far, they can ultimately make the case that the whole of the east and south is within their reach - and even the potential to liberate Crimea while they're at it - if longer range and more advanced arms are made available.
The Financial Times reports this week that active discussions between the US and Ukraine are underway concerning Kiev's weapons wish list:
A senior US defense official said Washington and its allies were discussing Ukraine’s longer term needs, such as air defenses, and whether it might be appropriate to give Kyiv fighter aircraft in the "medium to longer term". To date, the US and its allies have declined to do so.
But interestingly and quite tellingly, the report immediately follows with the acknowledgement that Ukrainian leaders are perhaps naturally incentivize to exaggerate battlefield gains at this moment. Here's more from the FT as the Pentagon offers a "cautiously optimistic" assessment of Ukraine's ongoing counteroffensives in the east and south:
Ukrainian military officials have said in recent days they have taken more than 3,000 sq km of terrain in what has become Moscow’s biggest military setback since it was forced to scrap plans to conquer Kyiv. But late on Monday night President Volodymyr Zelenskyy practically doubled those claims as Ukraine’s forces continued to advance.
Something Ukraine has additionally long been asking for is longer-range missile systems. A Monday Wall Street Journal report detailed that Kiev is now requesting from the Pentagon the Army's Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, a surface-to-surface missile system with the capability of reaching about 190 miles. This would be far and beyond the range of missiles transferred to Ukraine thus far in the conflict.
The Biden administration in the early months resisted sending longer range missiles, admitting its fears that doing so could draw the US and Russia into direct conflict - given longer range munitions means Ukrainian forces would have the capability of hitting inside Russian territory. This has already happened with Crimea, and even recently with bases inside Russia proper near the border.
But now US defense officials are looking over a new strategy proposal and weapons request submitted by Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s force. WSJ details of the document:
They argued that Russia has long-range cruise missiles that greatly outdistance the systems in the Ukrainian inventory. A turning point could come if the Ukrainians also had longer-range systems, they argued, specifically mentioning the ATACMS.
"The only way to radically change the strategic situation is, without a doubt, for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to launch several consecutive, and ideally, simultaneous counterattacks during the 2023 campaign," they wrote.
Currently, the HIMARS systems which are already being provided have a reported max range of 50 miles, and the US administration previously asserted Ukraine had given "guarantees" they wouldn't be used to target Russian territory.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the White House previewed that yet another fresh arms package for Ukraine is likely to be announced in the coming days. This as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has pledged that NATO allies are ready to support the war against Russia for the "long haul".