US officials say Biden lifts some restrictions on Ukraine using US weapons for strikes on Russian territory

President Joe Biden has authorized Ukraine to utilize American weapons to carry out defensive strikes inside Russia, specifically to protect Kharkiv. This decision was made in accordance with four U.S. officials who are knowledgeable about the situation.

According to anonymous officials, it is important to note that the U.S. policy remains consistent in advising Ukraine against using American-provided ATACMS or long-range missiles and other munitions for offensive strikes inside Russia.

According to one official, Biden’s directive permits the use of U.S.-supplied weapons in the Kharkiv region for the purpose of counterfire. This will enable Ukraine to retaliate against Russian forces that are currently attacking them or are in the process of preparing to launch an attack.

Ukrainian officials are urging the U.S. administration to grant them permission to protect themselves against attacks that are coming from Russian territory. It is worth noting that Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is located a mere 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Russian border.

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The Biden administration has partially lifted the ban on Ukraine using US arms in strikes on Russian territory, according to US officials. This move is seen as a significant escalation in support for Ukraine amid the ongoing tensions with Russia. The decision comes as a response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, including the recent military buildup along the border. US officials emphasize that the decision is aimed at enhancing Ukraine’s defensive capabilities and deterring further aggression from Russia.

President Biden has partially lifted the ban on Ukraine using U.S. arms in Russian territory, as reported by AP Washington correspondent Sagar Meghani.

Politico was the first to report Biden’s decision.

Ukrainian officials, particularly Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have been expressing their concerns more openly, stating that the restriction has placed Ukrainian forces in an impossible position as Russia escalates its attacks in the northeast Kharkiv region.

Russia took advantage of the prolonged delay in the replenishment of U.S. military aid, while Western Europe’s insufficient military production has caused critical deliveries to the Ukrainian battlefield to slow down.

According to one of the officials familiar with the White House deliberations, discussions regarding changing the policy gained momentum within the Biden administration over two weeks ago, following Russia’s escalated offensive in the vicinity of Kharkiv.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently engaged in a secure video conference with their Ukrainian counterparts. During the discussion, the Ukrainian side emphasized the need for approval to utilize American weaponry against Russian positions along the border. These positions were reportedly responsible for launching attacks on the Kharkiv region. A U.S. official familiar with the White House deliberation revealed this information.

After their meeting with the Ukrainians on May 13, Sullivan, Austin, and Brown convened to discuss and reached a consensus on proposing a policy change to Biden.

Sullivan wasted no time in presenting the recommendation to Biden just two days later. He made a compelling argument, emphasizing the need for Ukrainians to have the ability to retaliate against the attacks coming from Russian territory. Biden quickly recognized the logic behind this perspective and agreed to the proposal.

On May 15th, Biden had a subsequent discussion with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. European Command. During the conversation, Biden, Austin, and Sullivan urged Gen. Cavoli to proceed with finalizing the details for the policy change.

During Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Kyiv, President Zelenskyy passionately advocated for the use of American weapons to retaliate against Russian positions that have been launching attacks into north and northeast Ukraine.

According to three U.S. officials familiar with the thinking of the top U.S. diplomat, Blinken was convinced and he brought that message back to Washington.

After his visit to Kyiv, Blinken met with Biden and Sullivan on May 17. He shared the insights he gained from Zelenskyy and emphasized his support for granting the Ukrainians more flexibility in responding to Russia.

However, Biden maintained a cautious approach and requested thorough examination before granting final approval.

The administration’s national security leaders were brought together by Sullivan for a discussion the following week. They all reached a consensus to proceed with the plan. Sullivan obtained the final approval from Biden a few days ago, but the guidance was not implemented until Thursday, according to the official.

Since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, President Biden has faced a challenging decision. He has consistently opposed Ukraine’s use of American-made weapons in their offensive, fearing that such actions could be seen as provocative and potentially escalate the conflict, widening the scope of the war.

During his visit to Moldova on Wednesday, Blinken mentioned that the United States’ policy regarding Ukraine’s deployment of American weapons is continuously evolving. This suggests that Washington might reconsider its unwritten rule prohibiting Ukraine from using these weapons for attacks on Russian territory. The following day, Blinken attended a meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Prague. While touring a Czech military base, he had the opportunity to see the armored vehicles that are being sent to Kyiv.

U.S. officials have consistently emphasized that there is no official arms ban in place. However, they have consistently expressed their belief that utilizing American weapons to target locations within Russia may trigger a retaliatory action from Moscow, a pledge made by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Blinken emphasized that the Biden administration’s stance on Ukraine is characterized by its ability to adapt and adjust as necessary.

During a news conference in Moldova, Blinken expressed confidence in the ability of the United States to adapt and adjust to the changing conditions and strategies of Russia’s aggression. He emphasized the importance of evolving alongside the evolving battlefield and affirmed the commitment to continue doing so.

“We constantly listen, learn, and make decisions to ensure Ukraine can effectively defend itself,” he stated.

The demand for a policy change has been increasing steadily.

Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that Western countries should not oppose Ukraine’s right to defend itself, even if it requires striking within Russian territory. Stoltenberg reiterated this stance on Thursday, underscoring the importance of ensuring Ukraine’s ability to protect its sovereignty.

“I think it’s high time we reconsidered some of these restrictions and allowed the Ukrainians to truly defend themselves,” he emphasized. “We must not forget the reality of the situation. This is a deliberate act of aggression initiated by Moscow against Ukraine.”

He argued that the right to self-defense also encompasses the ability to target legitimate military objectives beyond Ukraine.

During a NATO-related event in Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky emphasized the importance of providing Ukraine with necessary resources to counter Russia’s continuous aggression.

According to the speaker, Ukraine cannot effectively combat Russia if it is hindered in any way. He emphasizes that Ukraine must have the ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggressive actions, even if it means taking the fight onto Russian territory. He believes that political determination alone is not enough and must be supported by tangible military capabilities.

According to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, Norway’s foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, asserts that Ukraine has a clear legal right, based on international law, to launch an offensive against Russia within Russian territory as a means of defending its own territory.

Biden has made the decision to travel to France in early June to participate in the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in Normandy. This event holds great significance as it marked a turning point in World War II. Zelenskyy, along with numerous other world leaders, is also expected to be present at the D-Day commemorations.

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