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Why might the US send ATACMS missiles to Ukraine now?

FILE - A missile is launched from a United States military HIMARS system during joint military drills at a firing range in northern Australia
FILE - A missile is launched from a United States military HIMARS system during joint military drills at a firing range in northern Australia Copyright ANDREW LEESON/AFP or licensors
Copyright ANDREW LEESON/AFP or licensors
By Daniel Bellamy with Euronews
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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Washington DC next week as Congress debates whether to approve more aid for Ukraine.

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The US media has been reporting that President Joe Biden's authorisation for the deployment of the long-range missiles known as ATACMS could be imminent.

Zelenskyy has long called for this high-precision weaponry, capable of travelling 300 kilometres, a longer range than the Storm Shadow and Scalps missiles delivered by the UK and France. But why now?

"The aim of this increase in the stakes is to give a boost to the war," said César Pintado, a lecturer at the International Campus for Security and Defence in Spain.

"It would directly target not small territorial gains in the adjacent areas, but go straight for Crimea. 2024 is a very sensitive year politically. There are elections in the United States and elections to the European Parliament. Other governments may come in and change the players. And the game may not be the same," he said.

Pintado was referring to the possibility that Donald Trump wins the US presidential election and Washington's support for Ukraine might diminish.

With the cold weather approaching in Ukraine, and with it the mud that slows down military manoeuvres, the window of opportunity for counter-offence is narrowing. But some rules of the game have to be kept, particularly Kyiv's promise not to use Western weapons inside Russia.

"In terms of guarantees, there has to be enough trust that the political leadership has enough control over the military leadership, Marina Miron from the War Studies Department, at King's College in London said.

So far Ukraine has not been tempted to use any western supplied weapons on Russian territory, although it has fired its own drones at targets, even including the Kremlin.

But there's still a degree of reluctance, particularly with the appointment of a new defence minister.

"It doesn't look like the political leadership has all the control and all the trust, because we don't know how the new defence minister will be acting, what his strategy will be, what he will be pursuing," Miron said, referring to Rustem Umerov.

Billions of euros of arms are also promised for Ukraine from European states. Denmark and the Netherlands will send six dozen F-16s and the Swedish government is considering sending Gripen fighters to Ukraine.

And Germany will deliver a modest 40 Marder armoured vehicles whilst Poland has approved a much more generous donation of nearly 500 HIMARS missile launchers, which can be used to fire ATACMS missiles.

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