White House Divided on Letting US Weapons Attack Russia

In the spring of 2022, the Biden administration approved the transfer of advanced weapons and munitions to Ukraine based on direct assurances from Kyiv that US-supplied weapons would not be used to strike within Russian territory.

However, some administration officials are calling for a change in that longstanding policy now that Moscow is launching a massive offensive into northeastern Ukraine from positions located just over the border in Russia.

In mid-May, a group of Ukrainian lawmakers urged the Biden administration to lift the restriction, arguing that it was preventing Ukraine from adequately defending itself against Russia’s renewed attacks in the Kharkiv region.

Moscow was able to position 30,000 troops and equipment along the Russian border with Ukraine without fear that the same US-supplied long-range missile systems used with great success against Russian forces inside Ukraine could be used on Russian soil.

Following his unscheduled visit to Kyiv on May 14, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that the administration relax its restriction against Ukraine using US-supplied advanced weapons to strike at Russia.

According to unnamed sources, the Secretary of State’s change of heart was prompted by the ongoing heavy bombardment in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine which is being carried out from positions just over the border in Russia. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a recent interview that the Biden administration’s restrictions on striking Russian targets had given Moscow a “huge advantage.”

Currently, Ukrainian strikes within Russian territory have been carried out exclusively by Ukrainian-made drones. However, the drones, which do not have the same power, precision, or speed as the US-made weapons systems, are being increasingly destroyed by Russia’s superior electronic air defense systems.

Former high-ranking State Department official Victoria Nuland, who stepped down in April, said in a recent interview that it was time for the administration to lift the restriction on using US weapons on Russian soil, saying that the positions in Russia launching attacks in Kharkiv should be “fair game.”