Russia will not win a military victory in Ukraine and Kiev’s forces are unlikely to push all Russian troops off its territory soon, the top United States military official said.
“This war will not be won militarily by Russia. It just isn’t,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday.
Russia’s original strategic objectives, including toppling the government in Kiev, “are not militarily feasible,” Milley told journalists after a virtual meeting of dozens of countries members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, also known as the Ramstein group.
There are also hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which would make Kiev’s goal of retaking all of the territory lost to Moscow’s forces unlikely “any time soon,” Milley said.
“That means the fighting will continue, it will get bloody, it will get tough. And at some point, both sides will negotiate a settlement or come to a military conclusion,” he said.
Milly’s assessment adds to some predictions that the war in Ukraine appears to be dragging on, with neither side able to secure a clear victory and no negotiations currently taking place.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, also said Moscow’s war in Ukraine could continue for decades.
According to comments published by Russia’s RIA news agency on Thursday, Medvedev described an ongoing conflict with years of fighting with Ukraine interspersed with several years of ceasefire before fighting resumed.
“This conflict will last for a very long time, probably decades,” the RIA news agency quoted Medvedev as saying on a visit to Vietnam.
“As long as there is such power (in Kiev), there will be three years of ceasefire, two years of conflict, and everything will repeat itself,” said Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful Security Service. Council.
Medvedev, known for his regular harsh remarks about Ukraine and those considered Moscow’s enemies, said earlier this year that a Russian defeat could trigger nuclear war.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to grow as the US takes the lead in pushing international support and military aid to Ukraine, including coordinating arms shipments from dozens of countries. In an apparent policy reversal, the US announced last week that it would support Ukraine to provide advanced US-made F-16 fighter jets.
In total, Ukraine’s supporters have provided nearly $65 billion in security aid to the country, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a press conference on Thursday.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said “a long war” is not a Russian goal but a means of adapting to the situation in Ukraine after the plan for a quick victory fell through. Russia’s ability to sustain an extensive military campaign in Ukraine is not guaranteed, while a “long war” would give Russia the time and space needed to rebuild its armed forces, the institute said.
“Ukrainian counter-offensives will deprive the Kremlin of breathing space to replenish its resources, will further deplete Russia’s offensive potential and ultimately allow Ukrainian forces to drive Russia out of Ukraine,” the ISW said.
“The Kremlin’s ‘long war’ story reflects Putin’s intent to rebuild Russia’s large-scale warfare. But it is also an information operation aimed at prying the West apart from Ukraine. This information operation builds on previous Russian efforts, such as ceasefire and nuclear blackmail stories,” the ISW added.
No ‘magic weapons’
On Thursday, Kiev supporters discussed “plans for training Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter jets, including the F-16,” Austin said, speaking alongside Milley, noting that “planning and conducting this training involves a significant company will be”.
Austin said that the Dutch and Danish defense ministers are working with the US on fighter jet training for Ukraine and that Norway, Belgium, Portugal and Poland have already offered to contribute to the initiative.
In addition, he said the Allies would set up a fund so that other countries could contribute to the overall effort.
Commenting on the F-16 fighters, Milley warned that they would not become “the magic weapon.”
“There are no magic weapons” — not the F-16s or any other weapons, he said, noting that 10 F-16s can cost $2 billion, including maintenance.
“The Russians have a thousand fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, so if you want to fight Russia in the air, you need a significant number of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters,” he said.
F-16s have a future role as part of Ukraine’s air capabilities, but it “will take a long time to build an air force of the size and scope and scale that would be required”.
Air defense systems are still the weapons Ukraine needs most in the wider effort to control its airspace, he said.
The US is on the verge of announcing up to $300 million more in military aid to Ukraine, consisting mostly of ammunition, two officials told Reuters news agency.
The package is expected to include more Guided Multiple Launch Rockets (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, as well as other munitions.