Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised the Biden administration that his country would not use long-range rocket systems provided by the United States to attack Russian territory.
The United States and its allies previously balked at providing such weapons to Ukraine for fear they would be deployed on Russian soil, something the Kremlin threatened would lead to “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios,” according to AP News.
However, President Biden announced on Tuesday, May 31, in an op-ed published in The New York Times, his intention to deliver Ukraine weapon systems that can strike a target with precision up to 50 miles away.
“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces,” wrote the president.
He continued, “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”
When pressed by reporters on whether Ukraine would attack Russian territory with U.S. weapons, Defense Undersecretary Colin Kahl stressed that the Ukrainian government pledged to only fire long-range rockets at Russian targets within Ukraine’s borders.
“Assurances have been given at multiple levels of Ukrainian government,” said Defense Undersecretary Colin Kahl at a press briefing on Wednesday, June 1. “This particular assurance goes all the way up to the top of the Ukrainian government, to include President Zelenskyy.”
The Ukrainian leader reiterated his assurance in an interview with Newsmax:
“I know some of the people in the United States are saying, or people in the White House are saying we might be using them to attack Russia: Look, we’re not planning to attack Russia.”
He stressed, “We’re not fighting on their territory. We have the war on our territory. They came to our country.”
President Zelenskyy went on to make a case for why his country should receive even longer-range rocket systems, pointing to the possibility of a global food crisis caused by Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea.
“Currently, 22.5 [million] tons of grain are blocked by Russia,” said Zelenskyy. “In order to de-block this territory with an exit to the sea, with an exit to water, with an exit to our people, we need to fight, and we need to have weapons with effective range [of at least 75 miles].”
Still, Russian officials are not convinced Zelenskyy will not fire the long-range rockets into Russia.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, told Russian state media that President Zelenskyy was “not to be trusted” with the new U.S. weapons.
“We give no credit of trust to the Ukrainian side,” said Peskov. He added that Russia does not believe the United States is acting in good faith either.
“The U.S. is pouring gasoline on the fire deliberately and with enthusiasm. [American military aid and weapons] encourage the Ukrainian leadership not to resume peace talks,” he said.
Russia claims Ukraine has engaged in military operations inside of Russian territory. Ukraine denies this.
The current Russian military action in Ukraine began on February 24 and currently has no end in sight. Diplomatic talks have stalled, with both sides claiming the other is at fault.