US lawmakers urge Pentagon to permit Ukraine’s use of US-supplied weapons to strike targets in Russia

Mike Turner, the chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, during a press conference of members of the U.S. Congress Delegation on Feb. 9, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Ukraine’s struggle to fend off Russia’s massive offensive in the Kharkiv region has underscored a pressing issue that Kyiv has long tried to overturn: a ban on firing U.S. weapons to hit inside of Russia. 

Russia launched its Kharkiv offensive from the neighboring Belgorod region, and some Ukrainian officials are arguing that the attack could have been blunted if they were allowed to hit targets in that Russian province. 

A delegation of five Ukrainian members of parliament traveled to Washington this week to meet with Biden administration officials and congressional lawmakers in a bid to push the U.S. to reverse the ban.  

But during a media roundtable event in Washington, the Ukrainian lawmakers expressed palpable frustration that the U.S. is still against the policy. 

“It’s like if somebody were to attack Washington, D.C., from the Virginia state, and you say we’re not going to hit Virginia for some reason,” said David Arahamiya, head of a Ukrainian parliamentary group on U.S. relations and the lawmaker who led the delegation this week. 

“It’s crazy. Military people, like generals, they don’t understand. So they are pushing us as politicians, like stop [the policy] this is insane.” 

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has urged the Pentagon to allow Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons to strike targets within Russian territory, arguing that this would enable Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression better.

However, the Pentagon has reiterated its policy of not allowing Ukraine to use Western weapons to strike Russian territory. The debate continues, with some suggesting a compromise allowing strikes only on military targets near the border involved in attacks against Ukraine.

A bipartisan group of U.S. members of Congress wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on May 20, urging the Pentagon to permit Ukraine to strike Russian territory with U.S.-supplied weapons.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that they do not support or encourage Kyiv’s strikes with American weapons deep inside Russia, while Ukrainian officials are reportedly trying to convince Washington to lift this ban.

Ukraine recently said that Washington’s ban meant Ukraine was unable to attack Russian forces as they were building up before crossing the border into Kharkiv Oblast in the renewed Russian offensive that began earlier in May.

The letter, which was signed by Congressman Mike Turner, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, and 12 other representatives from both parties, asked the Pentagon to allow Ukraine to “use certain weapons provided by the U.S. to conduct operations on strategic targets inside Russian and Russian-controlled territory.”

“Ukrainians have been unable to defend themselves due to the (Biden) Administration’s current policy. It is essential the Biden Administration allows Ukraine’s military leaders an ability to conduct a full spectrum of operations necessary to respond to Russia’s unprovoked attack on their sovereign land,” the letter continued.

The sentiment was recently echoed by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who said that the U.S. restriction on using long-range ATACMS missiles inside Russia was a “mistake.”

The representatives also requested that the U.S. help train more Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and provide more air defense, namely “upwards of seven additional Patriot batteries.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier in May that Ukraine could prevent the occupation of Kharkiv with just two more Patriot batteries.

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