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Blinken: Conversation about supplying weapons to Ukraine ‘ongoing’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23. (David Dee Delgado/Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a conversation with Ukraine over the supply of U.S. weapons to aid the country’s war effort is “ongoing,” notably regarding a request from Kyiv for Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, as the surface-to-surface missiles are commonly known.

“Whatever they put on the table is something we’re going to look at, to consider, and we’re going to give them our best judgment about what can be effective for them,” Blinken said in an interview with “60 Minutes.”

The United States so far has made 20 transfers of defense equipment valued at billions of dollars, Blinken said, including antitank and antiaircraft weapons that helped repel Russian forces during their attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

“At every step of the way, we have worked to make sure that the Ukrainians had in their hands what they needed to defend themselves,” Blinken said. He described it as an “ongoing conversation” about what Ukraine needs at any given moment, adding: “We adjust as we go along.”

“It’s not just having the weapons in hand; you’ve got to know how to use them, and that requires training,” he said.

U.S.-supplied HIMARS changing the calculus on Ukraine’s front lines

Blinken’s interview aired Sunday, the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had received sophisticated ground-based air defense systems from the United States. Kyiv had long requested the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, known as NASAMS. The transfer was approved by Washington late last month and was part of an aid package announced in July.

A defense official said at the time that NASAMS would help Ukraine transition away from a Soviet type of air defense system to a modern system used by NATO.

The most advanced U.S.-provided system so far, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, commonly known as HIMARS, has changed the battle on Ukraine’s front lines. It has the longest range of Ukraine’s ground weapons, nearly 50 miles, allowing Kyiv’s military to precisely strike Russian targets without endangering its own civilians in occupied territories.

Ukrainian officials lobbied for the HIMARS weapons system for two months before the transfer was approved — only on the condition that Kyiv would not use it to launch cross-border attacks into Russia.

The ATACMS is a tactical missile with an even longer range than those currently being fired from HIMARS launchers — some 180 miles, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, giving Ukraine the technical capability to strike deep into Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that supplying longer-range weapons would cross a “red line,” drawing the United States into the conflict.

Colin Kahl, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said last month that Ukraine did not require ATACMS to strike targets “that are directly relevant to the current fight.”

Isabelle Khurshudyan contributed to this report.

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