'Ukraine can’t retake Crimea', Pentagon says during classified brief
The US Department of Defense officials' judgment enrages Kiev, who wants to recapture the peninsula from Russia.
Four senior Defense Department officials told House Armed Services Committee lawmakers that Ukrainian forces are unlikely to be able to recapture Crimea from Russian troops in the near future, according to a report by Politico on Wednesday. The report adds that the assessment is sure to frustrate leaders in Kiev who aim to recapture the peninsula.
According to the report, there are no clear indicators as to what led the briefers to that assessment, but three people with direct knowledge of Thursday's briefing indicated that the Pentagon does not believe Ukraine has the capabilities to force Russian troops out of the peninsula. One out of the three sources revealed that the briefing was vaguer, but the point remained that Ukraine's victory in a battle to capture the peninsula was not assured.
Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations on the Joint Staff, provided briefings.
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Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said, “We’re not going to comment on closed-door classified briefings nor will we talk about hypotheticals or speculate on potential future operations,” adding that “In terms of Ukraine’s ability to fight and take back sovereign territory, their remarkable performance in repulsing Russian aggression and continued adaptability on the battlefield speaks for itself.”
The briefers' judgment echoes what Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has hinted at in recent weeks. He emphasized that it would be very difficult for the Ukrainian forces to " eject the Russia forces from Ukraine," during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany on January 20.
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One individual familiar with Kiev's thinking claimed Milley's words enraged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's government, as Ukraine prepared for attacks this spring.
Ukrainians also point out that US intelligence about their military capabilities has continually been inaccurate throughout the almost year-long conflict.
No victory without Crimea: Zelensky's advisor
Zelensky's advisor, Andriy Yermak, rejected the idea of a Ukrainian victory without capturing Crimea at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. “This is absolutely unacceptable,” Yermak said, adding that victory means "restoring Donbass and Crimea.”
In order to face Russia, Ukraine has repeatedly asked the US for longer-range weapons, including rocket artillery and guided munitions fired by fighter planes and drones. The United States provided Ukraine with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in the summer, but refuses to deliver missiles capable of reaching 300 miles, "putting all of Crimea at risk."
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