Britain sent long-range “Storm Shadow” cruise missiles to Ukraine in May. And France pledged a shipment of the same missiles, which it calls SCALPs, as NATO leaders gathered in Lithuania on Tuesday.
But for now at least, the United States is still hesitant to send Ukraine any of its limited stockpile of long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems — known as ATACMS, or “attack ’ems” — even though the administration has acknowledged Biden said Kyiv’s forces are dangerously low on other ammunition in its counteroffensive against Russia.
Ukraine has long sought the ATACMS, which has a range of about 190 miles, or about 40 miles more than the missiles supplied by France and Britain.
The Pentagon maintained that Ukraine currently does not need ATACMS, which can reach behind enemy lines, including Russia and occupied Crimea.
But two American officials and one European official described a quiet debate within the Biden administration over whether to send even some of the surface-to-surface guided missiles, which are reserved for other security threats. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal administration debate.
Like the United States, France has previously ruled out providing Ukraine with longer-range missiles, due to concerns that they could be used to attack targets in Russia, which would escalate the conflict. But President Emmanuel Macron said he was now sending SCALP missiles to help Ukraine defend itself.
“Given the situation and the counter-offensive being carried out by Ukraine, I have decided to increase the delivery of weapons and equipment and give the Ukrainians a deep attack capability,” Mr. Macron said upon arrival in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuanian, on Tuesday for the annual NATO summit.
The counteroffensive is progressing slowly, as the Ukrainians fight Russian forces who have months to build defensive positions.
The United States has been reluctant to provide advanced weapons to Ukraine, based in part on the administration’s fear of escalating the conflict. The administration reversed itself on several weapons systems, eventually agreeing to send Patriot air defenses, Abrams tanks and cluster munitions.
President Biden made the decision on cluster munitions last week. He defended his decision on Friday to provide the munitions, which are banned by many of America’s closest allies, saying it was a difficult choice but that “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”
Other military aid was promised to Ukraine The NATO meeting included 25 more Leopard tanks, 40 more infantry fighting vehicles, and two more Patriot air defense missile launchers in a $770 million package from Germany, and $240 million from Norway for unspecified equipment and other support.
In addition, defense ministers from Denmark and the Netherlands announced that they had gathered 11 countries to help begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and will create a school to do this in Romania.
ATACMS is among the last major weapons systems Kyiv wants and the United States is reluctant to provide.
American defense officials have warned that their arsenal of ATACMS is relatively small, and that the missiles are made for other Pentagon war plans, in areas including the Korean Peninsula. Only about 4,000 ATACMS have been produced since the missile was developed in the 1980s, a Lockheed Martin spokesman said Tuesday.
Giving them to Ukraine risks being prepared in other hot spots.
Shortly after Ukraine launched its counteroffensive last month, House Republicans formally called to the Biden administration to “immediately” send ATACMS to Ukraine, noting that other allies have already donated their own long-range missiles.
France’s announcement on Tuesday could fuel the pressure campaign or, on the contrary, ease it now that Ukraine is receiving long-range missiles from other countries.
“The military’s reason for doing this is illustrated, to some extent, by what’s going on now, with regard to the counteroffensive,” said Franklin D. Kramer, a former assistant secretary of defense for international affairs.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, told reporters on Tuesday that he is “absolutely sure that everything that is impossible at the moment” will become possible.
Mr. Reznikov made it clear that he will not stop asking for ATACMs or long-range missiles from any ally.
“We need more weapons,” he said.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Vilnius.