Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the United Kingdom will supply Ukraine with Storm Shadow cruise missiles that have a range of more than 155 miles. The announcement follows more than a year of discussions between Ukraine and its NATO allies about the possibility of sending long-range missiles to the country.
The British defence minister defended the decision, stating that the missiles would help Ukraine “push back Russian forces based on Ukrainian sovereign territory.”
Wallace also said that the decision was made in the wake of a recent onslaught of Russian missile and drone strikes in Ukrainian towns and cities, destroying civilian infrastructure.
Wallace Warned This Would Happen
The British government appears to be following through on a threat made to Russia in December. Wallace wrote to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in December, pledging to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine if Russia does not stop conducting missile and drone strikes on residential parts of Ukraine.
Will the United States Follow Suit?
The United States has long refused to provide long-range missiles to Ukraine, in part over concern that the missiles may be used to strike deep into Russian territory and therefore escalate the conflict.
In February, the White House also expressed concern over sending long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, describing how sending the advanced missiles to Ukraine would risk the United States military’s preparedness for a future conflict.
The United Kingdom’s Storm Shadow missile falls short of the range of the United States’ ATACMS, though only by 35 miles.
In contrast, the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher system sent by the United States to Ukraine fires missiles at a range of roughly 50 miles.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly sought to dispel worries about Western long-range missile systems being used to conduct strikes into Russian territory. After Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged that Ukraine conducted an attempted drone strike on the Kremlin on May 3, the Ukrainian president told reporters that his military does not have the resources to conduct strikes on Russian territory and remains focused on fighting at home. Ukrainian Defense minister Oleksii Reznikov also told a meeting of EU officials recently that long-range missile systems would not be used to conduct strikes on Russian territory.
“Ukraine is ready to provide any guarantees that your weapons will not be involved in attacks on the Russian territory,” Reznikov said.
The White House has not announced any change to its position on sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, and it would be hard for the Pentagon to defend sending ATACMS systems after previously arguing against such a measure over concerns about the U.S. military’s preparedness.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.