Pentagon on HIMARS missiles delivered to Ukraine: “Russia doesn’t get a veto over what we send to the Ukrainians”

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Following the announcement by President Joe Biden of the new military aid package for Ukraine, the Pentagon has made a number of remarks about Russia’s veiled threats over HIMARS missiles delivered by Washington to Kyiv. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov had told the RIA Novosti state news agency that Moscow considers “extremely negative” US military aid to Ukraine and that it could increase the risk of a direct confrontation.

The people of Ukraine continue to inspire the world with their courage and resolve as they fight bravely to defend their country and their democracy against Russian aggression. The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself.

Today, I am announcing a significant new security assistance package to provide timely and critical aid to the Ukrainian military. Thanks to the additional funding for Ukraine, passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, the United States will be able to keep providing Ukraine with more of the weapons that they are using so effectively to repel Russian attacks. This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances. We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” reads a statement by President Joe Biden on Additional Security Assistance to Ukraine.

In their turn, the Defense officials from the Pentagon said they were “calm” about the outbreak of World War III and reiterated that the United States did not want to come into direct conflict with Russia, but at the same time said clearly that Moscow ” it has no veto power ”over military aid to the United States.

President Biden directed the drawdown of an additional $700 million in weapons and equipment from the Department of Defense Inventories.

The capabilities in this package include High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, and guided munitions with a range of up to 70 kilometers, five counter artillery radars, two air surveillance radars, 1,000 additional javelins, and 50 command launch units, 6,000 anti-armor weapons 15,000 155-millimeter artillery rounds, four MI-17 helicopters, 15 tactical vehicles, and spare parts and equipment.

These are critical capabilities to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian offensive in the east. One such need is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System I just mentioned, which responds to Ukraine’s top priority ask. This system will provide Ukraine with additional precision in targeting at range. The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will use this system for defensive purposes only,” said Dr. Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in a press briefing.

The US Defense official added that in anticipation of this potential decision by President Biden, the Department of Defense has already pre-positioned the HIMARS systems in Europe to ensure that they can be rapidly delivered to the Ukrainians. And put in place a plan so that we could start training Ukrainian forces immediately, while ensuring they learn how to operate the system safely and effectively as well as to maintain the system.

Asked by reporters how quickly you can get the HIMARS into the hands of Ukrainian forces, Kahl said it would take around three weeks.

“The initial tranche of HIMARS Systems will be four. As I said, we’ve already pre-positioned the systems in theater so that we can deliver them expeditiously. I think it’s important to keep in mind though, these aren’t turnkey these, of course, are systems that the Ukrainians need to be trained on. We think that’ll take around three weeks.

And they need to know not just how to use the systems but of course how to maintain the system. So, think of logistics, maintenance, things like that. So, it’ll be a number of weeks, until that training is complete,” he explained.

Questioned about assurances that these missiles will not hit Russian territory, Kahl stated: “Ukraine is defending their territory, anything they’re doing on the territory of Ukraine is defensive in this context. The formal assurance is that they will not use these systems to target Russian territory (…) They are defending – they have the right as a sovereign nation to defend their territory. They didn’t start this war, the Russians did. And the Russians are on the offensive. If the Ukrainians are pushing them back from Ukrainian territory, so for example, the Ukrainians made a recent push into Kherson. If they push back along the line of contact in the Donbas, we would consider that defensive.

They’ve given us their assurances that they’re not going to use these systems for striking Russian territory. And we trust the Ukrainians will live up to those assurances.”

As for a potential escalation of the conflict, given Russia’s recent warning, Kahl said that “President Biden has made clear: we have no intention of coming into direct conflict with Russia. We don’t have an interest in the conflict in Ukraine widening to a broader conflict or evolving into World War Three.”

“So, we’ve been mindful of that, but at the same time, Russia doesn’t get a veto over what we send to the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians didn’t start this war, the Russians did. The Ukrainians didn’t provoke this war. This war was unprovoked. The Russians can end this conflict anytime they want. If they are wary of escalation, all it takes is one man to say stop.

And they can do it. So, we are mindful of the escalation risk, but in the first instance, we’re focused on what we think the Ukrainians need for the current fight(…) We’re not the ones provoking Russia and Ukraine is not the ones provoking Russia. The Russians engaged in this further invasion of Ukraine completely unprovoked based on a set of fabricated, largely fabricated grievances against the Ukrainians, and a denial that Ukraine even deserves to exist. So, the onus is on Russia to de-escalate. ” the US defense official said.

In its turn, addressing a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg,Secretary Antony J. Blinken said:
It’s Russia that is attacking Ukraine, not the other way around. And simply put, the best way to avoid escalation is for Russia to stop the aggression and the war that it started. It’s fully within its power to do so.

Specifically with regard to weapons systems being provided, the Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory. There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners.

I would also say that throughout this aggression – indeed, even before – President Biden was very clear with President Putin about what the United States would do if Russia proceeded with its aggression, including continuing to provide security assistance that Ukraine needs to defend itself against the Russian aggression. There was no hiding the ball. We’ve been extremely clear about this from day one, with President Biden communicating that directly to President Putin. So we have done exactly what we said we would do. And it is Russia, again, that chose to launch this aggression, despite all of our efforts to prevent that, with intense diplomacy over many months. Again, they started the conflict. They can end it at any time, and we will avoid any concerns about miscalculations or escalation.”

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