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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Why Joe Biden Should Give ATACMS to Ukraine

ATACMS firing back in 2006. Image Credit: U.S. Army.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is repeatedly rebuffed in his requests for the long-range Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS. He knows these precision-strike missiles, with their range of 190 miles, would fundamentally change the course of the war if used against Russian supply lines. 

The Biden administration contends that ATACMS missiles aren’t needed, and, if provided, could be used against Russia directly. It fears that giving these missiles to Ukraine would escalate the war, a concern stoked daily by Russian President Vladimir Putin.      

Russian forces occupy about 40,600 square miles of Ukrainian territory. Most of Crimea and an arc along the coast sit beyond the 50-mile range of U.S.- and British-supplied missiles, making it an operational sanctuary for Russian resupply efforts.      

Putin’s frontline troops depend on vulnerable supply lines in Ukraine that stretch back 200 miles. If attacked in depth, those routes would prove to be the Russian military’s greatest weakness. This is Russia’s jugular, and Putin knows this. In requesting ATACMS missiles, Zelensky proposes a deep-strike assault to substantially degrade Russia’s capability to resupply.

Historical Precedent for ATACMS

A nearly forgotten campaign ordered in 1944 by General Dwight Eisenhower is instructive. Eisenhower’s campaign set out to destroy Germany’s ability to resupply its forces at Normandy, and it was the foundation on which the success of the D-Day landings was built.        

Surprisingly, Eisenhower’s plan to bomb German supply routes met with heated opposition, much as Zelensky faces today. Ike was told the plan lacked merit, it would take nine months, and continued bombing of German industry should remain the priority — not enemy supply lines. Undeterred, Eisenhower threatened to resign if not given temporary command of all heavy bombers in northwest Europe.   

Known as the Transportation Plan, the bombing of French railways started in March and ran through mid-August. By D-Day, the French rail system from Normandy to Paris and beyond was near total collapse. Germany had 50 divisions in France, Belgium, and Holland, and could not get them to Normandy.      

The history of Eisenhower’s interdiction campaign reads like a how-to guide for Zelensky’s military planners. While the means of delivery differs — WWII bomber formations dropping countless tons of ordnance from 30,000 feet vs. today’s precision-guided missiles — their objective, the destruction of enemy supply lines, is identical. Yet while Eisenhower understood the need to bomb not just the Normandy coast but deep inside France, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security team, in refusing to ship long-range missiles, limits the reach of Ukraine’s military to 50 miles, leaving most Russian supply lines untouched. In sum, the ATACMS missile, while no silver bullet, offers sorely needed capabilities to Ukraine’s military.     

Biden also fears Ukraine would use ATACMS missiles to strike Russian territory. Zelensky, understanding this, recently invited the president to deploy an American target verification cell into his military command structure. Biden should accept the offer, and with brutal frankness underscore his concerns by promising to halt American aid should a missile somehow be launched against Russia.

Load the C-17s   

Biden’s greatest concern involves escalation. Putin’s constant threats — his escalation narrative — linking the provision of ATACMS to Ukraine with possible nuclear retaliation, make clear the tenuous state of his deployed forces. A Ukrainian assault on Russian supply lines would cripple their frontline forces. Putin has not gone nuclear, but he desperately needs Biden to believe he will. The Russian leader is exploiting the nuclear grey zone, directly and through his functionaries, stoking the U.S. president’s concerns about escalation. While Putin’s true intentions are unknown, we do know this: Zelensky sees the opportunity. He understands the risk. He wants the missiles.            

Putin’s threat narrative, by delaying or preventing the provision of ATACMS, purchases the one great intangible, time, that failing militaries never have and that his struggling forces desperately need. Time permits him to increase production of heavy trucks, weapons, and munitions. It allows Russia to buy drones and missiles, and to purchase artillery shells by the shipload. The Kremlin can levy conscripts, destroy pipelines, and exploit NATO’s divisions. With winter encroaching and Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid, time allows for exposure and disease — Putin hopes — to break Ukraine’s will.    

Whether Biden calls Putin’s bluff and provides Ukraine with the long-range munitions it requires, or bows to threats and in doing so condemns her people to a war of unknown duration and possible territorial concessions, remains to be seen.  

Britain’s Ministry of Defense reports that the Russian army today struggles to support its frontline forces. Their difficulties present an opportunity Ukraine could exploit if provided the missiles Zelensky so often requests. Russia’s difficulties also present Biden with an exceedingly difficult choice.   

Load the C-17s. Provide Ukraine’s military with the missiles they require. We must cease taking the counsel of our fears.

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Lindsey Neas is a former Army armor officer. He served for 15 years as the military aide for several members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and was Chief of Staff to the Graham-Talent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission in 2009-2010.

Written By

Lindsey Neas is a former Army armor officer. He served for 15 years as the military aide for several members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and was Chief of Staff to the Graham-Talent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission in 2009-2010.



  1. ATM

    December 14, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    The point of this war is not winning war.

  2. Ben Leucking

    December 14, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Well said, sir. Biden’s unwillingness to authorize ATACMS is costing thousands of Ukrainian lives, including civilians. Moreover, his failure to authorize is causing the needless deaths of Russian soldiers by prolonging the war. As long as Putin thinks there is hope of victory, he will continue to throw Russian conscripts and criminals into the meat grinder. Starve the beast. Send them packing.

  3. TG

    December 14, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Well, fine.

    And what if Putin decides to bomb the Ukrainian supply lines in Poland etc?

    And maybe decides to start blowing up other people’s gas pipelines?

    Or torpedoing LNG terminals?

    It’s that old saying, be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

  4. Putin Apologist

    December 14, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    How many times have we heard this wunderwaffen or that wunderwaffen was going to “fundamentally change the course of the war”?

    We heard it when Stingers were sent, when Javelins were sent, when Switchblades were sent, when M-777 were sent, when HIMARS were sent. I’m sure I missed a few. But how has any of these wunderwaffen “fundamentally change the course of the war”, other than in prolonging the misery for both Ukrainians and Russians?

  5. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    December 14, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    If I remember correctly the ATACMS was Putin’s ‘redline’ with the West.

  6. Jim

    December 14, 2022 at 6:23 pm

    Escalate the war is thy name.

    Long range missiles into Russia proper. (What happens next?)

    Kiev… leadership… Lvov? … what does that do to the war… if it happens… the pressure to escalate increases by magnitudes, again. where does it end?

    Doubling down on a failed policy.

    How far from a nuclear war?

    Do you guys know what you’re doing?

    Time to back off, now, before all hell breaks loose.

  7. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 14, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    Ukraine has conducted dozens of strikes on Russian territory, recently on air bases hundreds of miles from Ukraine. ATACMS isn’t going to help much, and there are limited numbers of this missile which means Ukraine won’t get very many, dozens rather than hundreds. Ukraine would be better off developing its own long range suicide drones, like the ones it used on the air fields.

  8. 403Forbidden

    December 14, 2022 at 7:39 pm

    World is waiting for antichrist Biden to kickstart ww3 during his great presidency by lighting up Europe big time.

    And he can do so by quickly giving zelenskiyy (Erdogan of Ukraine) who’s one of his premier or top globalist fascismo sidekick ATACMs.

    Antichrist Biden or chief of big ? devils now dreams hugely of remaking the world in America’s mold and he can start by igniting ww3.

    Biden boasts of great American ‘democracy’ & ‘freedom’ and its national economic growth. And wants world to be molded in America’s image.

    But we know better. America has the biggest prison population on earth with untold cases of ongoing abuses, especially sexual abuse.

    And we know America’s economy depends on wars for growth. Endless wars provide growth and US has been involved in over 400 wars & military interventions since 1776.

    Google military interventions by United States. >400 wars.

  9. Jim

    December 14, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    Jackson, your characterization is over the length of the war. Most small scale, but they did the bridge.

    These last 1970’s target cruise missiles, re-worked & reprogrammed, hit deep in Russia, and @ a combined conventional/nuclear air base… is reckless.

    Minimum damage was done.

    It’s reckless to give the missiles.

    Next, you’ll be telling us Nato needs to jump in.

    You guys have no reverse gear.

    In the face of a foreign policy failure… don’t make it any harder on the American People than it has to be.

    Don’t make it a disaster.

  10. troll-feeder

    December 14, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    It’s always easy to see when you strike a nerve. The trolls emerge en masse. Nice work Mr. Neas!

    Provide Ukraine with ATACMS now, and help Ukraine end the special military operation without delay.

  11. GhostTomahawk

    December 15, 2022 at 12:28 am

    All of this is making my head hurt.

    I thought the democrats were the antiwar party. ??? Nevermind. Obama started more proxy wars than the previous 2 combined.

    The only people that are getting beat here are Americans. Not only is the US taxpayer getting fleeced for this but we will in turn have to pay to replace all of this military materiel at 2023 inflation prices… and then later on pay for the deficit spending that was used to prop up the corrupt Ukraine govt.

    So the west could keep the money laundering game going.

  12. Yrral

    December 15, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Ukrainain leadership admit they cannot defeat Russian Google Cinc Zuluzhnyi Ukrinform

  13. Matt

    December 15, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Joe is not going to help because then Ukraine might actually win.

    It’s not easy losing every war since World War II, but the US is up to the task. I’m sure that the Ukrainian victories are just a temporary setback.

  14. Gary Jacobs

    December 15, 2022 at 12:03 pm


    you continue to post your faux notion of smarts…and you are wrong about almost everything you post yet again.

    Ukraine only has a few of those modified soviet era drones that they have converted to cruise missiles.

    ATACMs is a legit ballistic missile with a terminal velocity of Mach 3.5 that could actually damage a runway with the crater it creates. The cruise missile conversion doesnt come close to that. As well, ATACMs isnt long range by any standard other than it being longer compared to what we have given Ukraine so far. It only goes 190miles max. Russia is 11 time zones. 190 miles barely scratches into that.

    The author is simply speaking of Ukraine going after Russian logistics with deeper strikes. That said, Ukraine has offered to allow the US to veto any target they want to hit with ATACMs. That could allow the US to keep those missiles inside the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.

    But this is all a bit moot. There simply arent that many ATACMs in existence anyway. It would be better to have a few ATACMs, and a lot of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs [GLSDB].

    The GLSDB has a range of around 94 miles, or 150 kilometers, which is still well short of the longer-range versions of the ATACMS missile at 190 miles (300km) depending on the variant, and which is a much heavier weapon delivering a much bigger punch.

    However, the GLSDB still has significantly greater reach than the longest-range 227mm artillery rockets currently available for the M270 MLRS and the M142 HIMARS. These can fire out to around 43 miles (70 kilometers).

    The GLSDB also offers a good deal of versatility in that it can be fired from a number of different launchers, including the M270 MLRS tracked launcher and the M142 HIMARS. The podded launchers used by these systems could potentially be loaded with a mix of artillery rockets and GLSDB rounds. On the other hand, these same pods can accommodate only a single ATACMS missile.

    So far, GLSDB has been demonstrated with a six-round launcher, although the “launcher-independent” nature of the munition means it can be fired from other interfaces, too. These include a modular launcher based on a purpose-built 20-foot ISO container, which can be mounted on a flatbed truck, a format that has been offered in the past to Finland.

    All in all, the GLSDB appears to be a very useful solution to meeting Ukraine’s demand for long-range precision firepower – not only in terms of its overall capabilities but since the M26 rockets and the SDB, which are fitted together to make the GLSDB, are widely available by the thousands in the existing stockpiles of the United States and other allies.

    They are also relatively cheap as The overall cost of the GLSDB is around $50,000. In contrast, a GMLRS round costs approximately $150,000.

    As for your notion of escalation…once again you are projecting Putin’s talking points onto others. It’s devolved into silly blame Ukraine for fighting for its freedom posts…while you continue to blame Russia for nothing.

    Have a liberating day.

  15. Tamerlane

    December 15, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    Once again the Ukranian trolls swarm to cheerlead for further American intervention on behalf of a non-ally client-state whose strategic interests divert from our American interests. Hallelujah!

    American intervention on behalf of the most corrupt country in Europe against the second most corrupt to the point of embroilment into direct conflict with a leading nuclear superpower is not in our interests. If supply lines within Russia are fair game for American targeting, so too are the supply lines within Poland for Russia. Cui bono here? It certainly isn’t the American taxpayer or our strategic interests in maintaining the post WWII monetary standard (the bedrock of our ability to project power abroad). In fact, the greater our intervention against Russia, the higher the likelihood the rest of the countries not benefiting from direct redistribution/subsidization of American taxpayer dollars to their defense will rally to overthrow the USD status as global reserve currency. If this is successful, the United States will not have the capacity to intervene globally in the internal policies and border disputes of other smaller powers (India/Indonesia/SA etc.), and will be compelled by necessity to respect their own strategic interests in the manner we protect our own parochial interests-without consideration of ethics, morality, legality, or scruple.

    This potential destruction of America’s powerbase is a heavy risk to assume for a non-ally proxy-state like Ukraine, and the solidification of support for our economic overthrow is not worth the benefit, in my estimation.

    As for these arms, how will Ukraine pay for these? Surely they will be required to pay for the billions of dollars of arms we have sent prior to our provision of additional arms financed by borrowing money from our global opponents? We have been escalating our “assistance” for 10 months without any end of war in sight. In fact, in internecine conflicts (this is one such conflict in which Russia openly entered the conflict ahead of a planned Ukrainian offensive against Donbass), when outside parties enter the conflict through provision of arms, logistics and equipment, on average the conflict is prolonged for years. Years. The best result here would be an American facilitated peace which excludes Ukraine from NATO, which guarantees autonomy to the eastern Oblasts of Ukraine, and which seeks to sever Russia from Chinese orbit and which integrates them. If anything, a guarantee should be made to Russia that they will receive an invitation without precondition to join NATO prior or at the same time as Ukraine is extended an invitation. Turkey, an authoritarian dictatorship, is already such a member, without substantive issue. If NATO is indeed a defensive alliance, surely such a move would assist our efforts in containment of our true opponent, Communist China.

    The Ukrainian trolls herein repeat their utterly unfounded postulation that Putin is “bluffing”, and that Russia does not actually view Ukraine within NATO as a fundamental and existential redline. This is contravened by the past 25 years, not to mention the past ten (10) months. It is crystal clear that Russia, despite substantial conventional injuries, is not going to accept defeat, and will escalate as far as is necessary to attrit Ukraine. What the Ukrainian trolls herein refuse to recognize and consider is that in war, both sides get a vote, and the Russians are voting consistently to respond by further engagement. If they indeed view the conflict as existential for their existence and defense, under what constellation of logic is it an American existential interest to escalate on behalf of a non-ally proxy we are using to bleed a secondary non-primary global opponent?

    It is a mistake, and could very easily result in the repatriation of our long sent abroad chickens to their American roosts.

    Let’s preserve liberty and protect our ability to defend it.

  16. Walker

    December 15, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    All the alarm here by the Russian Trolls tells me that this is a good idea.

  17. TheDon

    December 15, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    Hey, what are the two jets in the background?

  18. Dan Jensen

    December 15, 2022 at 11:17 pm

    Stop sending $100 billion to corrupt Eastern Europeans while Americans struggle to meet their basic needs. Excessive government spending takes food out of the mouthed of poor people via inflation.

  19. Johnny Ray

    December 16, 2022 at 1:39 pm

    FIGHT TO WIN! Give them the ATACMS for Christ sake.

    And, anything else that will help. A few thousand cruise missiles would sure help when it comes time to take out Crimea and that day is coming sooner than later for sure.
    It doesn’t have to be made in USA weapons. Seed them Euro guided missiles, drones, high tech air defense systems.
    Let’s win this one, with finality, for a change. It’s on. Let’s win.

  20. Tamerlane

    December 17, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Give them? “Johnny Ray” or whatever your Ukrainian name is, what are you talking about? If by “let’s win” or “let us win one for a change”, who is “us”? The United States is not a combatant, nor is it “at war” with Russia. Nor is Ukraine an ally of the United States. Who is “us”?

    “Take out Crimea”? Uh, the Russians view this as Russian core territory… if “us” is the United States, why are you willing to go to WWIII and the deaths of hundreds of millions of Americans over Ukraine’s ambitions? How’s this in any regard in America’s strategic interests? Russia isn’t even our primary global opponent….

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