The White House defended its decision to send Ukraine new rocket systems that fall short of the 200-mile range Ukrainians requested, saying the US assessed that the 49-mile-range systems were what the country needs at this time in a new phase of battle.
"We have tried to get the Ukrainians exactly what we think they needed to be able to fend off this Russian assault on their country. That worked in the early days, the Ukrainians were able to win the battle for Kyiv and drive the Russians away from their capital, now the conflict has shifted to a different phase in the south and east of the country," deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told CNN’s John Berman.
The new weapons will add to Ukraine’s capability, Finer said, and it “will give them the ability to strike with precision Russian targets on the battlefield.”
As CNN has reported, the Biden administration will be sending Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS. The HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers, or 49 miles. That is far less than the maximum range of the systems, which is around 300 kilometers, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.
“We believe that this does meet their needs,” Finer said when pressed on Ukraine’s request for longer-range systems.
The US, he added, has asked Ukraine “for assurances that they will not use these systems to strike inside Russia” and instead to defend Ukrainian territory.
Finer also reacted to reaction from Russia Wednesday morning that the US action is “adding fuel to the fire.”
The US, he said, does not negotiate its security systems packages to Ukraine.
“Russia has brought this on itself by launching an invasion into a sovereign country from its territory. So we've been very clear and transparent about what we're going to be doing. It has been effective for the Ukrainians thus far and we will continue,” he said.
He declined to comment on Russian gains in the eastern Donetsk region, calling this a “very difficult phase of fighting.” This phase, Finer predicted, will play out “over a period of weeks and months and perhaps even longer.”
The Russians have made “incremental gains,” he said, but declined to “handicap the play-by-play.”