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Kiev meets to discuss the risk of escalation if Ukraine attacks on Russian soil

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US Marines with M777 howitzers on a C-17 military transport plane to be transported to Europe on April 21. (Photo: Reuters)

These behind-the-scenes discussions do not place clear geographical restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Ukraine. However, the discussions helped the two sides reach a common understanding of the risk of escalation, three officials and a diplomatic source said.

“We’re concerned about the risk of escalation and don’t want to put geo-restrictions or tie them too much with what’s being offered to them,” an official, who asked not to be named, said. Reuters.

The US administration and its allies are ready to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons, including M777 howitzers, when Kiev is fighting the Russian military campaign more effectively than initially anticipated by US intelligence. Last week, the Pentagon announced that Denmark would supply Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine. This weapon will expand the attack range of Kiev.

Although initially predicting that Ukraine would be overwhelmed by a larger and better equipped Russian military, US officials recently expressed hope that the Ukrainians could win, and wanted to arm them to achieve their goals. this target.

US officials say that the administration of President Joe Biden is even considering supplying Kiev with the M142 mobile artillery system, which has a range of up to hundreds of kilometers.

However, US intelligence also warned of the risk of escalation. The coming months will see the conflict take a “more unpredictable trajectory and potentially escalate,” US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said during a US Senate hearing this month.

The US is not directly involved in the war, but Pentagon commanders communicate regularly with Ukrainian leaders and provide vital intelligence to help Ukraine attack Russian forces on land and at sea, US officials said. said.

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington and Kiev “share a common understanding” about the West’s use of certain weapons systems.

“So far, we are on the same page about the thresholds,” the official revealed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that supplying Ukraine with weapons that could strike Russian soil would be a “serious step leading to an unacceptable escalation”. This statement was posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 26.

Douglas Lute, a former US ambassador to NATO, agrees that Ukraine has enough domestic targets to be concerned. But he acknowledged there was a risk of escalation and political divisions within NATO over whether Ukraine should attack inside Russia.

“That will cause controversy within the union. And of course, the union doesn’t want that. Neither does Ukraine,” Lute said.

Another question is whether Ukraine can change strategy if the conflict takes a turn for the worse, thereby potentially using the weapons provided by the US in a direction that was not originally intended.

“There’s a scenario where Ukraine is cornered, making them feel like they need to escalate further, but we haven’t seen that,” one US official said.

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