By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed on Thursday that London is providing Ukraine with longer-range missiles, marking another escalation of NATO support for Kyiv.
The UK is sending Storm Shadow missiles, which are air-launched and can be fired by Ukraine’s Soviet fighter jets. According to CNN, the Storm Shadows London is sending Kyiv have a range of 250km (155 miles).
Wallace said the Storm Shadows are “now going in, or are in the country itself,” signaling some have been delivered. He didn’t specify how many London is sending. “The use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory,” he said.
The Kremlin called the news “extremely negative” and vowed to respond. “This will demand an adequate response from our military, which will, naturally, from a military point of view, find corresponding solutions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
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US officials have welcomed the British move but have said it won’t mean the US will be providing Kyiv with the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) it has been requesting. ATACMS have a range of up to 190 miles and can be fired by the HIMARS rocket systems.
The current munitions Ukraine has been using with the HIMARS have a range of up to 50 miles, although there have been reports of Kyiv using Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), which can hit targets up to 94 miles away. The US first pledged the GLSDBs for Ukraine in February.
The provision of longer-range weapons to Ukraine risks a major escalation as they can be used to target Russian territory. Ukrainian officials have insisted they wouldn’t use them for attacks inside Russia, but leaked Pentagon documents have indicated President Volodymyr Zelensky would want to.
Ukraine and its Western backers also don’t recognize Crimea as Russian territory, meaning targeting the peninsula is not off-limits. attacks on Crimea can be just as escalatory, as even Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acknowledged the peninsula is a “red line” for President Vladimir Putin.
Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.