The new envoy to Kiev has shrugged off Biden and Blinken guarantees

The range of rocket launchers supplied by the US will be up to the Ukrainians, Washington’s new ambassador, Bridget Brink, said after taking up her post in Kiev on Thursday. President Joe Biden himself denied the US was enabling Ukraine to strike Russia, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kiev had made a promise to that effect as well.

Brink held a press conference on Thursday, after presenting her credentials to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, declaring that her mission in Kiev was to “help Ukraine prevail against Russian aggression.”

Asked about the HIMARS multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS) that the US is supplying to Kiev as part of a $700 million military aid package, she volunteered the details about their command and control.

“The range itself is going to be up to the Ukrainian side,” Brink said.

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FILE PHOTO. The MLRS fires during an exercise in Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. ©Andrew Matthews / PA Images via Getty Images
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The remark, translated into Ukrainian and re-translated into English, quickly made the rounds on social media, to the effect that the US would not “regulate” the range of the HIMARS.

Four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers were “pre-positioned” in Europe, the Pentagon revealed on Thursday, after Biden officially announced their delivery to Ukraine. They will be armed with “battlefield munitions,” the White House said, which was widely taken to mean barrage rockets with a range of 32-60 kilometers rather than the 300-kilometer range ballistic projectiles HIMARS is also capable of launching.

Moscow has warned the US about the risk of escalation if Kiev uses the new weapons to strike inside Russian territory, but the government in Washington has repeatedly insisted this would not happen.

“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Biden wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday. Speaking after a meeting with the NATO secretary-general in Washington, Biden’s top diplomat said the US had Ukrainian promises such an attack wouldn’t happen.

“The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Blinken said. “There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the US, as well as with our allies and partners.”

Russia has said it will use military means to mitigate threats posed by American and other NATO weapons in Ukrainian possession, and that Washington was obviously escalating the crisis and increasingly risking direct confrontation with Moscow – noting that this was something Biden himself said he wished to avoid.

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