Biden Assures Ukraine Won’t Use US Weapons to Strike Moscow, Kremlin, Other Areas Deep Inside Russia

Biden Assures Ukraine Won’t Use US Weapons to Strike Moscow, Kremlin, Other Areas Deep Inside Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) shakes hands with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the International commemorative ceremony at Omaha Beach marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Allied landings in Normandy, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden offered some new clarifications in a recent interview about how Ukrainian forces can use U.S.-donated weapons against targets inside Russia.

The Biden administration had recently signaled some support for Ukrainian forces using U.S.-donated weapons to strike targets on the other side of the Russia-Ukraine border, but it has offered few specifics about what limits it had placed over the use of these weapons inside Russia’s borders.

In a new interview with ABC News, which will air in full on the evening of June 6, President Biden answered questions about the changing rules of engagement.

ABC News host David Muir specifically asked President Biden whether Ukrainian forces have used any U.S.-supplied weapons inside Russia’s borders. The president avoided directly answering that question but insisted that there is at least some limit to when and where Ukrainian forces can attack inside Russia.

“They’re authorized to be used in proximity to the border when they’re being used on the other side of the border to attack specific targets in Ukraine,” President Biden told Muir. “We’re not authorizing strikes 200 miles into Russia and we’re not authorizing strikes on Moscow, on the Kremlin.”

President Biden and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads of state have previously hesitated to permit Ukrainian strikes inside Russia’s borders for fear of escalating the current Russia-Ukraine war into a broader regional conflict. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently began calling on his NATO allies to loosen those restrictions after Russian forces began a new offensive on the northeast Ukrainian border region of Kharkiv.

Russian forces have been observed launching munitions from inside their own border that then land on the Ukrainian side of the border in Kharkiv, providing Russian ground forces in the area with fire support that Ukrainian forces have been unsure how to counter.

Austin: New Policy ‘Very Helpful’ For Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered his own comments about the new U.S. policy toward Ukrainian strikes inside Russia during a Thursday interview with CNN while visiting Normandy, France, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Mr. Austin said allowing U.S.-donated weapons to be used inside Russia will prove “very, very helpful to the Ukrainians going forward.”

“[W]hat we have done is provided Ukraine the ability to counter fire, to fire back at those Russian troops that are firing at them and to be able to take out their artillery batteries as they’re firing at the Ukrainians,” Mr. Austin told CNN.

Mr. Austin’s new comments to CNN mark a slight shift in his overall tone toward how Ukrainian forces fight.

The defense secretary fielded questions about Ukraine’s requests for permission to strike inside Russia with U.S.-donated weapons during a May 20 Pentagon press engagement. At the time, Mr. Austin said the Ukrainian military’s focus “ought to be on the close fight,” though he suggested Ukrainian forces may fire into Russian airspace to intercept incoming aerial threats.

Putin Warns of Retaliation

Not all NATO members have embraced the idea of permitting Ukrainian forces to use NATO-donated weapons to strike inside Russia.

Speaking to Italy’s Ansa News agency last week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni distanced herself from Mr. Stoltengberg’s comments about such attacks on Russia and said the NATO official should exercise “more prudence.” Deputy Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini also told Ansa News that Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments raise the prospect of a new world war and that the NATO secretary general should apologize for his recent remarks or resign.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also argued in an interview last week that comments by his fellow NATO counterparts endorsing Ukrainian strikes inside Russia are risky and bring the alliance closer to direct conflict with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his own pushback on talks of Ukrainian strikes inside Russia at a press conference while visiting Uzbekistan on Tuesday. He stated that NATO member nations “should be fully aware of what is at stake,” adding that “theirs are small and densely populated countries, which is a factor to reckon with before they start talking about striking deep into the Russian territory.”

“If Europe were to face those serious consequences, what will the United States do, considering our strategic arms parity?” Mr. Putin added.

Mr. Muir asked President Biden, during their new interview, whether he was concerned about Mr. Putin’s recent comments and whether Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory using U.S.-donated weapons constitute “direct participation in this war.”

“I’ve known [Mr. Putin] for over 40 years. He’s concerned me for 40 years. He’s not a decent man. He’s a dictator, and he’s struggling to make sure he holds his country together while still keeping this assault going,” President Biden responded. “We’re not talking about giving them weapons to strike Moscow, to strike the Kremlin, to strike against — just across the border, where they’re receiving significant fire from conventional weapons used by the Russians to go into Ukraine to kill Ukrainians.”

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