While the U.S. has hesitated to send long-range missiles to Kyiv that could enter Russian territory due to concerns that such a move could be seen as an escalation or a provocation by Moscow, Latvia doesn’t have the same reservations. Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkevics, has called for NATO to allow Ukraine to conduct strikes inside Russian territory.
During an interview at the NATO summit in Romania, Rinkevics said of the request, “[w]e should allow Ukrainians to use weapons to target missile sites or airfields from where those operations are being launched.” Rinkevics added that NATO member states “should not fear” escalation or retaliation from Moscow.
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The White House has not publicly told Ukraine that the country cannot strike Russian territory, but in May, President Biden stated, “we’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.” Biden has also resisted recent pressure from Senators to provide Ukraine with long-range drones that could be used for attacks on Russian soil.
Biden has, however, authorized attacks on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. The attacks on Crimea, which included causing heavy damage to the Kerch Bridge that connects Crimea with mainland Russia, embarrassed Russian President, Vladamir Putin, and were followed by relentless missile and drone strikes in Ukraine that have taken out much of the war-torn country’s power grid.
In an effort to get Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that has a range of 186 miles, Ukraine has agreed to let Washington have targeting control of any launches using the system, however, Biden has only authorized the transfer of munitions with a range of 50 miles thus far.
Not only is there the threat that Putin could retaliate if longer-range weapons were provided to Kyiv but also that more of Ukraine could be annexed as a result of such a deal. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, already made threats over the summer, saying, “The longer the range of armaments that you will supply, the further away we will move from our territory line.”
In a Bloomberg interview during the NATO summit in Bucharest, Italy’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, made it clear that Italy does not want to cause a direct confrontation with Russia saying, “We don’t want problems with the other countries.” He continued, “we are not in danger directly.” In a statement that seems to echo the United States’ position, Tajani concluded, “We are against an escalation of the conflict.” NATO has yet to make a decision on Latvia’s request.