Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics has urged NATO to permit Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russian territory, saying the alliance should not fear Moscow’s response. The White House has resisted sending Kiev long-range missiles with the ability to hit targets in Russia.
During an interview on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Romania on Tuesday, Rinkevics stated “we should allow Ukrainians to use weapons to target missile sites or air fields from where those operations are being launched,” adding that allies “should not fear” retaliation by Moscow.
Though the White House has not publicly told Kiev that it cannot hit Russian territory, President Joe Biden previously noted his administration is reluctant to provide rocket or missile systems that can “strike into Russia,” while a senior defense official told Reuters Washington would not send arms with “long-range strike capabilities.”
However, the Biden administration has explicitly authorized attacks on the Crimean Peninsula, formerly Ukrainian territory that was annexed by Russia in 2014. The Kremlin reacted harshly to a series of attacks in the region, including by destroying large swaths of Ukraine’s power grid.
With nearly $20 billion in direct US military aid authorized since February, Ukraine is now seeking Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) with a range of around 185 miles, even offering to grant the Biden administration targeting control. However, so far the White House has only been willing to send munitions with a maximum range of 50 miles, such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS).
In June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow would take more Ukrainian territory if Kiev received longer-range weapons, having already annexed the Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions earlier this year.
“The longer the range of armaments that you will supply, the further away we will move from our territory the line,” he said.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani warned against direct confrontation with Russia. “We don’t want problems with the other countries,” he said, adding “we are not in danger directly” while urging against “an escalation of the conflict.”