Ukraine victory this year 'very difficult task': Top US general
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff says supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles could play a key role in any ceasefire negotiations.
The head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said it is unlikely that Ukraine can achieve the objective declared by Kiev earlier to expel Russian forces this year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country aims “to kick every Russian out of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley told Defense One news site in an interview on Friday, stressing that it "is a significant military task. Very, very difficult military task.”
“I'm not saying it can't be done,” but “I don't think it's likely to be done in the near term for this year,” he added, stressing however that "they [Ukrainians] certainly have a right to that."
Read more: US opposes ceasefire in Ukraine: White House
This is not the first time he revealed skepticism toward Kiev's plans to push Russian forces out of their country. The US top general told reporters in November 2022 that the probability Ukraine was going to take Crimea “anytime soon is not high.”
Milley also claimed Russia has “failed” both strategically, operationally, and tactically, linking their setbacks on the battlefield to their "poor training" and Ukraine's "human-wave tactics".
When asked about the possibility of supplying ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukraine, Milley said this does not align with Washington's policy so far.
From a military standpoint, he added, the US military is already facing a low count of these missiles and the US has "to make sure that we maintain our own munitions inventories".
Last Wednesday, the US general warned House Armed Services Committee that the war in Ukraine revealed “the incredible consumption rates of conventional munitions."
“If there was a war in the Korean Peninsula or a great power war between the United States and Russia, or the United States and China, the consumption rates would be off the charts,” he said.
The US will need “probably several years” to replenish the weapons stocks it has spent so far and will have to increase production to meet US defense needs.
Milley later suggested that supplying some long-range missiles to Kiev can play a significant part in any potential ceasefire negotiations.
“Are we preventing escalation, are we encouraging Russian escalation?” he said, referring to the split opinions regarding supplying Ukraine with missiles that can threaten major Russian cities, which might lead to a direct clash between Moscow and NATO.
“Having systems with a longer range that could put valuable Russian targets at risk would be a deterrent against any renewed aggression if there were some kind of mutually acceptable ceasefire over the coming months,” he said.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov said earlier this week that Ukraine will use newly received German Leopard battle tanks to carry out several offensives on different fronts starting this April or May.
However, Zelensky later said Ukraine needs more western weapons and munitions, claiming that the situation on the front was “unfavorable".
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba called Washington and Kiev's Western allies to keep up the supply of arms to Ukraine even if the spring offensive is not fully successful. On the other hand, his deputy Andrey Melnik said during an interview for the German outlet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the offensive is not ready yet.
“We don’t want to start a counteroffensive until we’re prepared,” he told the news outlet. “We have approximately 50-60 Western tanks now, but the Russians have been able to produce ten tanks a day. This means we will be unable to achieve a decisive advantage on the battlefield for a long time to come.”