US policy evolves with threats against Ukraine

by Admin
US policy evolves with threats against Ukraine

Less than a day after U.S. President Joe Biden granted Ukraine authorization to strike inside Russia with American weaponry, Michael Carpenter, senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, spoke with VOA’s Iuliia Iarmolenko to discuss details of the new policy and explain what prompted the president’s reversal of a longstanding ban.

Carpenter, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, emphasized that U.S. policies barring Ukraine from using American-provided ATACMS, or long-range missiles, and other munitions to strike offensively inside Russia have not changed.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VOA: Could you provide details about this shift in policy? What is allowed and what are the limitations?

MICHAEL CARPENTER, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AT NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This is in the context of the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region against Ukraine. Russians were striking targets in Ukraine from just across the border. And at that point, the Ukrainians came to us with a request to use U.S.-provided weapons to be able to hit back at the Russian weapons that were targeting Ukrainian villages and Ukrainian people and their homes. And so the president directed his national security team to look into this and directed them to change the guidance and to allow for the employment of U.S. provided weapons to be able to strike back. That guidance has now gone into effect.

VOA: Does it apply only to the Kharkiv region?

CARPENTER: This applies to counter-fire capabilities that are deployed just across the border. It does not apply to ATACMS or long-range strikes. This is meant to enable Ukrainians to defend themselves against what would otherwise be a Russian sanctuary across the border.

VOA: But in the Sumy region, would it be possible to do so there?

CARPENTER: As I said, this applies to enable Ukrainians to defend themselves. Yes, across the border for Russian attacks that are coming across, where otherwise Russians would enjoy a relative sanctuary on their side of the border.

VOA: What is the hope of the administration on how this policy shift might influence Ukraine’s position on the battlefield?

CARPENTER: Well, we have all long wanted to give Ukraine the capabilities that it needs defensively to push back on this aggressive onslaught on their territory. And we will continue to do that.

VOA: Do you expect, though, that this change in policy might influence the situation on a battlefield, such that Ukraine might have an upper hand in coming months?

CARPENTER: We endeavor to give Ukraine the capabilities over time to enable Ukraine to be able to defend its sovereignty against this aggression. And, yes, the types of weapons systems and the capabilities that we have provided, yes those have changed over time. The battlefield has changed over time. And we have reacted to what Russia has done. Don’t forget that Russia has also benefited from its partners. Principally Iran and North Korea. And we have therefore stepped up the contributions that we have made together with our allies and partners. And we continue to do so.

VOA: A couple weeks ago, Defense Secretary Austin said the United States is talking to allies in Europe about trying to get at least one more Patriot air-defense battery in place. Should we expect another battery directly from the United States as well?

CARPENTER: We are looking very carefully at what we could contribute to Ukraine’s air defense needs, which are very acute at this point in time. We’re talking with allies and partners. We’re talking around the world with various countries that we engage in. And I don’t have any announcements to make today, but I can assure you that this is an ongoing process where we are doing everything possible to unlock air defense capabilities for Ukraine.

VOA: I’d like to talk about the upcoming July NATO summit in Washington. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week said that we’ll see “very strong deliverables for Ukraine” at the summit. Is there a consensus among allies about what those deliverables might look like? And should Ukraine expect the invitation to start accession talks?

CARPENTER: Secretary Blinken is in Prague right now to talk about the nature of the deliverable for Ukraine, the nature of the support that will be provided in the aftermath of the Washington summit. We think it’s going to be very robust. This will be essentially a bridge to [NATO] membership, so that when Ukraine does in the future receive an invitation — now, there is no consensus for an invitation now, at the Washington summit — but when conditions permit and when there is that consensus and Ukraine does gain entry to the NATO alliance, we want to make sure that Ukraine is fully capable on day one of being able to deter and defend and also is fully interoperable with NATO and is able to essentially participate in all the benefits but also undertake the responsibilities of being a member of the alliance from day one. So, we’re looking out to build out those capabilities and that support through this package of measures that is currently under discussion among NATO allies in Prague as we speak right now.

VOA: President Biden is meeting today with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the White House. What role does President Biden hope Belgium can play in using Russian frozen assets to Ukraine’s benefit?

CARPENTER: Belgium is a great NATO ally. They’re a member of the EU. They’ve had the presidency of the European Union. They play a very important role. And President Biden, as he does with every single European leader, will underscore our partnership in support of Ukraine. Now, Belgium plays a particular role in terms of Russian sovereign assets, and we will be discussing how we can use the proceeds from those immobilized Russian sovereign assets to support Ukraine.

VOA: It appears President Biden is likely to skip the Ukraine peace summit that’s going to be happening in Switzerland. Is it a sign that the administration doesn’t believe that this summit can produce some important results?

CARPENTER: So, first of all, I don’t have an announcement for you today on who will participate for the United States. We will have senior-level participation there, no doubt. … But we will look to use the opportunity of this Swiss peace summit to underscore support for Ukraine, for its sovereignty, for its territorial integrity, for the principles of the U.N. Charter. And as wide a participation as possible that will underscore worldwide support for Ukraine and its effort to defend itself.

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