The next few months will be critical to the success of any Ukrainian spring counteroffensive, according to top Pentagon officials.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday there was “a window” before spring to give Ukraine the capabilities it needs to go on the offensive.
Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley were at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany this week to attend a meeting of Ukraine’s Defense Contact Group, which brought together representatives from 54 nations to discuss equipment and training needed which Ukraine would need for an expulsion from Russia from its territory.
Milley told reporters after the meeting that militarily it would be “very, very difficult” for Ukraine to completely oust Russia from Ukraine this year.
However, he suggested that the Ukrainians could stage a successful operation to retake part of Russian-held territory, depending on the training and new equipment they receive over the next few months.
He also said it would be a “very heavy lift” to get the equipment to the Ukrainians and then practice both how to use the equipment and maneuver together on the battlefield.
Last weekend, the US began training about 500 Ukrainians a month in combined-arms maneuvers — that is, how to operate between battalion-sized groups and coordinate between air and ground.
The latest US $2.5 billion aid package released Thursday includes increased air defense capabilities and additional armored fighting vehicles, but no tanks.
Some expected that the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting would pressure Germany to provide or allow the third-party exportto Ukraine. There are about 2,000 Leopard tanks near NATO and some countries have signaled they would be willing to make them available to Ukraine but need Germany to approve the transfer.
Austin told reporters the German defense minister has not yet made a decision on the Leopard tanks. He also clarified that Germany’s decision does not depend on the US supplying Abrams tanks to Ukraine. US officials have argued that the Abrams tanks, which run on harder-to-obtain jet fuel, are too difficult to maintain, while the Leopards, which use diesel, are more accessible and easier to operate.
“We have a window here, you know, until the spring when they start their operation, their counteroffensive,” Austin said Friday. “And that’s not a long time, and we need to bring the right skills together.”
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-spring-counteroffensive-mark-milley-lloyd-austin/ The next few months will be crucial for Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive, senior Pentagon officials say