May 28, 2024 - World

Pressure mounts on U.S. to let Ukraine strike Russia with provided weapons

US-made M2 Bradley armored personnel carrier vehicle is displayed as the Russian Ministry of Defense

A U.S.-made armored personnel carrier vehicle is displayed by the Russian Ministry of Defense while it exhibits examples of captured and destroyed military equipment from the Ukrainian army in Moscow on May 28. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu via Getty Images

Pressure is mounting to allow Ukraine to use U.S.-provided weapons on military targets within Russian territory.

The big picture: After the Biden administration instituted the ban in an attempt to keep the conflict from escalating, calls to remove the embargo have been growing from U.S. lawmakers, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • The criticism from many is that the ban is hindering the country's ability to effectively defend itself.

Context: Ukraine has been provided with a large arsenal of Western weapons, including long-range missiles, but it is not allowed to use them to strike targets in Russian territory.

  • Some have blamed Russia's recent offensive in Ukraine's Kharkiv region on this constraint. Without it, Ukraine may have been able to strike Russian targets organizing near its border beforehand, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

State of play: After calls from top NATO officials, the assembly adopted a declaration on Monday calling for the lifting of restrictions that prohibit the use of "crucial weapons" against military targets in Russia.

  • "Ukraine must be provided with all that it needs, as quickly as possible and for as long as it takes for it to win," the declaration states.

Zoom out: U.S. lawmakers too have been criticizing the decision, with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) last week backing a call from fellow lawmakers for the Defense Department to allow the use of the weapons.

  • A group of bipartisan representatives led by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio) asked the DOD in a letter to lift the embargo, arguing, "Ukrainians have been unable to defend themselves due to the [Biden] Administration's current policy."

Zoom in: Zelensky has been calling for the U.S. and Ukraine's Western supporters to become more involved in its defense efforts.

  • "Why can't we use weapons to destroy them where they are massing?" Zelensky asked in an interview with the New York Times.
  • "This would also help because they wouldn't be united in a single operation," he continued. "They would know that if they accumulate at a particular point, we will strike."

The other side: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that Western countries helping Ukraine strike into Russia "should be aware of what they are playing with," per Reuters.

  • "Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences," he told reporters. "If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?"

Go deeper: Zelensky urges allies to begin intercepting Russian missiles over Ukraine

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