Under pressure, Biden allowed Ukraine to use American weapons to attack inside Russia

The decision followed weeks of intense secret discussions with the Ukrainian side, which became more urgent after Russia began its major offensive on Kharkov around May 10.

Three days later, on May 13, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., held one of their regularly scheduled secure video conferences regularly with Ukrainian counterparts. Once again, Ukrainians pressed Biden to lift US restrictions on firing into Russian territory, arguing that the president’s concerns about escalation were overblown. But now, they say, the problem has become more urgent because the Russians are shelling civilian sites around Kharkiv from inside their borders – knowing that the Ukrainians cannot respond fully.

After the meeting, officials said, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Austin and General Brown decided to recommend that the president reverse his position. But they kept the decision very tight. Two days later, on May 15, Mr. Sullivan conveyed the recommendation to Mr. Biden, who — for the first time — said he was inclined to create an exception allowing the Ukrainians to counterattack, even if the attacks Russia’s attack is about to take place. just a few miles from the Russian border. At that time, Mr. Blinken was in Kyiv and heard the reversal directly from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On the same day as his private meeting with Mr. Sullivan, the president met with Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the four-star commander of U.S. European Command and the supreme allied commander in Europe. He was in Washington for an annual meeting with all combatant commanders and told Mr. Biden that he also agreed that the ban on firing on Russia was endangering Ukraine — despite an official said he was concerned about that too. Russia’s possible reactions

Mr. Blinken returned from Kyiv and met with Mr. Biden and Mr. Sullivan on the evening of May 17 in the Oval Office, saying he appeared convinced that the US must change its stance. Officials said it was clear at the time that Mr. Biden agreed, but the president emphasized that before making a formal decision, he wanted a meeting with the country’s national security “heads.” to consider the risks. That meeting didn’t take place until last week, just as news of Mr. Blinken’s change of stance leaked out.


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