Ukraine War, October 18, 2023: Obsolete ATACMS used in Ukraine–A breakthrough?

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1) Michael R. Gordon, Nancy A. Youssef, and Matthew Luxmoore, “Ukraine Fires ATACMS Missiles at Russian Forces for the First Time; U.S. missiles were secretly deployed to Ukraine in recent days,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2023 (2:23 pm ET);

2) David E. Sanger, Lara Jakes, Marc Santora, Constant Méheut and John Ismay, “Ukraine Uses Powerful American-Supplied Missiles for First Time; Ukrainian forces attacked two key Russian air bases behind enemy lines on Tuesday, using American-made long-range missiles known as ATACMS, a U.S. official said,” New York Times, October 17, 2023 (Updated 5:12 p.m. ET);

3) Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, “Ukraine’s new American missiles may have devastated the Russian airforce; Reports are coming in of ATACMS strikes on Russian airfields. If confirmed, this could change the course of the war,” The Telegraph, October 17, 2023 (2:35 pm);

4) Lewis Page, “Biden has not supplied Ukraine with the war-winning ATACMS missile; The US has sent an obsolete, shorter-ranged version,” The Telegraph, October 18, 2023 (12:58pm);

5) James Rowles, “The crazy chessboard Biden has set up forcing Ukraine to fight with one hand tied behind its back,” Trenchant Observations, October 1, 2023;

6) James Rowles, “Biden and Scholz need to answer one question: Why shouldn’t Ukraine be permitted to use weapons supplied by NATO countries to attack targets in Russia?” Trenchant Observations, October 5, 2023;


Lewis Page describes in detail the limitations of the obsolete ATACMS artillery rockets the U.S. has supplied to Ukraine, apparently as a concession made by Joe Biden to Volodymyr Zelensky in their recent meeting in Washington.

This seems to have been a spontaneous concession, at variance with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s statement the day before that the U.S. would not be supplying ATACMS to Ukraine.

Soon it was learned that the U.S. would be supplying only a “limited number” of ATACMS, reportedly about 20. Lewis provides the details on the limitations of the obsolete version of the artillery rockets actually delivered to Ukraine.

He deflates the illusions of analysts who have considered this development as a breakthrough in the year-long dithering by the Biden administration over whether or not to supply the ATACMS Ukraine has long requested.

The ATACMS delivered do not seem to break the apparent rules Biden has laid down limiting the capabilities of weapons and other assets that may be provided to Ukraine. In “The crazy chessboard Biden has set up forcing Ukraine to fight with one hand tied behind its back,” Trenchant Observations, October 1, 2023, we set forth a list of these apparent rules, which amount in effect to rules to enforce Vladimir Putin’s “red lines”:

Biden has established the following Rules, which in effect amount to rules to ensure the enforcement of Putin’s “red lines”:

These rules are:

1. No weapons furnished by the U.S. (or other NATO countries) may be used by Ukraine to attack targets within Russia proper, or the Kerch Strait Bridge.

2. As a condition for the receipt of weapons that could theoretically be used to attack targets in Russia, or the Kerch Strait Bridge, Ukraine must solemnly promise not to use them to do so.

3. The U.S. and other NATO countries will make physical modifications on weapons in order to ensure that they cannot be used to attack targets in Russia, or the Kerch Strait Bridge.

4. U.S. intelligence and other assets will not be used to enable Ukraine to strike targets in Russia, or the Kerch Strait Bridge.

Why has Biden been enforcing Putin’s red lines in this manner?

So, there is not much new here. Biden continues to be cowed by Putin’s nuclear threats. Biden continues to supply weapons to Ukraine–after much delay and hesitation–which are aimed at avoiding defeat while not enabling Ukraine to advance toward victory.

Victory means simply expelling Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine and succeeding in the country’s war of self-defense against Russia’s war of aggression and barbarism in the commission of war crimes. Additional elements of victory would be reparations for the damages inflicted on Ukraine and its population, and punishment of those responsible for the commission of war crimes in Ukraine.

Victory seems to be a word Biden just can’t say and a concept he just can’t get his mind around.

He is too afraid of Putin.

Yet if you stop and think about it, NATO’s entire strategy of nuclear deterrence is based on the assumption that NATO leaders will not cave in to nuclear threats.

Yet it seems that Biden has been doing exactly that, since even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

The Trenchant Observer


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