Ukraine Should Be Free to Hit Military Targets in Russia, Latvia Says
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(Bloomberg) - Ukraine should be free to attack military installations inside Russia as it repels attacks on its critical infrastructure, Latvia's foreign minister said. But allies, including the US, have held back from sending weapons capable of hitting Russia.
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"We should allow Ukrainians to use weapons to attack missile sites or airfields from which these operations are launched," Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said Tuesday in an interview on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Bucharest. Allies should "not fear" an escalation, he added.
Although the US has not imposed restrictions on Ukraine's use of weapons, it has so far refused to send weapons with sufficient range to attack inside Russia.
The Biden administration has equipped Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated weapons, including multi-launch missile systems, but officials have refused to send the army's tactical missile system, known as ATACMS, because it can hit targets on Russian territory.
Washington has so far refused to provide fighter jets, citing assessments that the plane would not improve Ukraine's prospects. The introduction of longer-range weapons has raised concerns that the conflict could escalate or spread to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Those concerns are shared by Rep. Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who will chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee once the GOP gains control of the chamber in January. In an interview, he said such attacks would undermine public support for Ukraine.
Strikes inside Russia "would trigger a massive response from Russia and really escalate the situation," McCaul told Bloomberg News. “You have to weigh the tremendous backlash and world public opinion. Ukrainians have done a phenomenal job of being on the right side on this issue and public opinion being in their favor. That might be a step too far.”
Rinkevics said that several other member states also agree that Ukraine should not have restrictions on the use of weapons in general, but that ultimately rests with individual nations when deciding which weapons to make available to Kyiv.
Allies address issue
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters at the meeting that some countries are questioning whether allies should deliver arms without strings attached, although "the consensus hasn't changed". Kyiv has been pushing for weapons from allies without "political reservations" since the beginning of the war, Landsbergis added.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Bloomberg that "we don't want problems with the other countries" and that "we are not in direct danger". He added: "We are against an escalation of the conflict."
Ukraine has been ravaged by Russian missile attacks on its critical infrastructure, leaving millions without reliable sources of energy and water in the dead of winter. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says more such attacks are to be expected as Russia loses ground on the battlefield.
During the two-day meeting in Bucharest, the allies are expected to discuss sending Ukraine more air defense systems and other equipment to help Ukraine repel the attacks, even though their current systems shot down about two-thirds of Russian missiles in recent attacks.
--With support from Andra Timu, Irina Vilcu and Daniel Flatley.
(Updates with US Legislature's response in sixth paragraph.)
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