President Joe Biden is not yet willing to provide Ukraine with more powerful weapons systems to keep the war there limited.
The New York Times reported Saturday that while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pressing Biden harder to give him more powerful long-range missile systems, which could potentially reach into Russia itself, Biden does not want to further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin into a wider conflict.
"We're trying to avoid World War III," the Times reported Biden reminding his aides, echoing a statement he has made publicly as well.
According to the report, Zelenskyy is specifically looking for the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which could reach 190 miles to attack Russia-annexed Crimea or even deep into the Russian homeland.
Zelenskyy wants the more aggressive systems to further military advances on the ground that have forced Russian troops to withdraw from several square miles in the eastern part of the country.
The advances are due, at least in part, to the billions of dollars in military aid the United States has provided Ukraine in hardware and weapons systems, much to the chagrin of Putin.
"If Washington decides to supply longer-range missiles to Kyiv, then it will be crossing a red line, and will become a direct party to the conflict," Russian Foreign Ministry Director Maria Zakharova said Thursday, warning of it being a "red line" for Putin and Russia.
That same day, the U.S. announced another $600 million in aid, including artillery rounds and the smaller High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), NBC News reported Friday.
The news outlet reported that a senior U.S. official said Friday that the stronger weapons system "was not on the table at this time," echoing a public statement from Biden Tuesday.
"We're not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia," Biden said.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told NBC Friday that senior leaders were in contact with Ukraine to assess its needs.
"As evidenced by their recent progress, they continue to employ the capabilities provided to them by the U.S. and international community to great effect on the battlefield," Ryder said in the report. "We remain committed to supporting them in their fight to defend their nation."
The United States has sent more than $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid since Russia invaded on Feb. 25.
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